Teaching Your Children Self-Respect and Respect for Others

By Mary Ann Benson, M.S.W., L.S.W.

Respect is defined as a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way. (Merriam Webster, 2014) There are two critical components of respect that children need to learn at an early age. The first is respect for themselves, and the second is respect for others. The best way for parents to teach those principles is to model them for their children. It has been said that the home you grow up in is the greatest classroom you ever attend. Some of the ways to be effective teachers are:

1) Teach your children that they are the most important person in their life. We often focus on the concepts of sharing and thinking of the other person first, but there is merit in allowing children to meet their own needs first, and then considering the needs of others. Sensitivity to others occurs naturally without prompting after we have taken care of ourselves. Some may perceive this approach as selfish, but doesn’t it stand to reason that we are better able to serve others after we have made sure that we are whole? An example of this idea would be if a child has a playmate coming to visit and has a special toy he or she doesn’t want to share. That toy can be put away and other toys can be chosen to share. That tells your child that it is okay to meet his or her own needs, and that is a message that will serve him or her well throughout life.

2) Teach your children about boundaries to protect their physical and emotional health. Your children need to learn emphatically that no one has the right to jeopardize their physical or emotional safety. Clear, age-appropriate discussions need to occur about inappropriate physical contact, as well as unacceptable words or behaviors that make a child uncomfortable or fearful. Your children should be educated to share any incidents of concern with you and/or other trusted adults in their life who need to be clearly identified.

3) Teach your children respect for others by modeling respect for others in your words and actions, especially in how you interact with your spouse, partner, and children. The dynamics in your home have a powerful influence on your children. The Golden Rule is a perfect example of how we should conduct ourselves. It is a general rule for how to behave that says you should treat people the way you would like other people to treat you. It is a rule of ethical conduct. (Merriam Webster, 2014)

The result of teaching these valuable practices is that they foster self-confidence that promotes a person’s ability to reach his or her potential and make worthwhile contributions to society. It also creates the tolerance to accept people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and promote harmony in our world.

Curious to learn more? Check out our books, ; How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, which is also available in ; and .

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Respect. (n.d.). Retrieved December 16, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/respect

Golden Rule. (n.d.). Retrieved December 16, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/golden rule

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