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8 Ways to Teach Your Children to Respect You

September 21, 2014 | by Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP

How to teach our children to be respectful and establish authority in our homes.

Children need to learn how to be respectful. It seems to be an outdated value but teaching kids to respect their parents helps them feel secure. They do not want to be in charge. Kids will often fight and push the limits just to see that their parents mean what they say. They want parents to follow through will the rules that they have set. They want parents to maintain their status as authority figures. Respect is also a fundamental Jewish principle that forms the basis of the Jewish home.

How can we teach our children to be respectful and establish our authority in our homes?

1. Live it:

It always starts with our behavior. We need to make sure that we are role modeling respectful speech. Our children watch our every move. We need to speak respectfully to our spouses most of all. We also need to check the way we speak to our parents, our siblings and the washing machine repairmen.

It seems silly but we need to speak respectfully to our children. They will not learn to be respectful to us if we are not respectful to them. One way to do that is If we are angry at our kids we can say: “Let’s take a break right now and cool off until we can talk civilly to each other. Nothing good is going to come from our discussion with the disrespectful way that we are talking to each other.”

2. Maintain a united front:

When your child is being disrespectful to your spouse you can and should defend your spouse, “Hey, you can’t talk to Mommy/Daddy that way.”

Even if you disagree with your spouse you can to say to your child, “Daddy said you can’t go then you can’t go, you need to listen to Daddy.” You can also throw in “Daddy and I are a team, we make decisions together.”

If you do speak disrespectfully to your spouse, apologize in front of your child, “I’m sorry that was disrespectful…….”

3. Teach respectful language:

It is helpful to teach kids how to be respectful. They don't know how to do this naturally. For younger children you can gently let them know what they did wrong, “I didn’t like the way you just asked me for orange juice, can you use your respectful voice to do that…”

You can then model for them how you would like to be asked: “I like to be asked with a please, like this, ‘Mom, could you please get me a glass of juice.’”

4. Use humor:

Humor is often the best way to teach anything of importance to kids. When you are modeling how to speak respectfully to kids you can say, “This is how I like to be asked, ‘Mommy dear, who I love so much, you’re the best mother in the whole wide world, while you are up anyway, can you grab the orange juice for me please?’”

5. Write a letter:

Newly married, there was a moment I was angry at my husband. I decided to write him a letter. (I made sure that it was not too accusatory). He then wrote me back. We resolved everything through the letter writing and I thought it was one of the best arguments we ever had because it was silent. We have used this technique a few times over the years and find it to be very effective. You can also do this with your kids.

If you find you can’t speak to your child respectfully, take a break and try writing a letter, “I didn’t think I would be able to say this respectfully in person, so I am going to try writing it to you in a letter.”

6. Tell them what disrespect looks like:

If you watch T.V. with your children it is the perfect time to discuss the different ways that people talk to one another (it’s rare to find respectful family relationships on T.V.). You can point out whether the characters on T.V. are being respectful to each other:

“Sam sounds pretty disrespectful…what he said could really hurt someone’s feelings.”

Instead of making negative comments, which can annoy children and turn them off, you can say in an offhand way, “Those people are really being nasty to each other; I am so glad in this house we try to be respectful to one another.”

7. Problem solve:

Many times families go through stressful periods where no one is on their best behavior and there can be a lot of arguing. When things get calm it is helpful to remind kids that this is not the way you want to your family to talk to each other.

You can say: “I’ve been hearing a lot of disrespectful language in this house. What can we do as a family to improve?”


8. Acknowledge your child’s respectful behavior:

It is also always helpful to point out the times people in our families are being respectful. Positive reinforcement is a powerful teaching tool.

“You knocked on my door instead of just coming in. That’s called being respectful.”

“You asked with a please. That is called being respectful.”

It is up to parents to teach children how to be respectful. Children want and need you to be respectfully authoritative in your home. It gives them the feeling of security that they crave. Children want to do the right thing they just need us to teach them how to do it.

Faber, Adele and Elaine Mazlish. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Avon Books, 1980

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