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Respect Is A Two-Way Street

Respect is an abstract term which can be difficult to teach to a young child.  Children can learn and understand the meaning of respect more easily when they witness their parents or teachers demonstrating respect towards others.

Respect has a variety of applications.  It can mean acceptance of the opinions or traditions of others.  It can also refer to an acknowledgment and recognition of another’s talents or position. 

Parents may find the following suggestions helpful when encouraging their children to develop or strengthen their concept of respect:

1) Although it is certainly acceptable not to like everyone who comes their way, it is important for children to understand that despite this, everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. There is ‘good’ in everyone, and adult role models can demonstrate this for their child by pointing out the good in a person and treating them in a positive manner.

“I am not concerned with your liking or disliking me…
All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”  ~ Jackie Robinson

2) Children possess strong emotions, and may lack the verbal skills to express how they feel in a given situation.  It is very meaningful to children when the adults in their life listen attentively to what they have to say, and are respectful of their ideas, feelings, and emotions.  It is easier for someone to understand respect when they are given respect.  

“Never take a person’s dignity: 
It is worth everything to them, and nothing to you.” ~  Frank Barron

3) Celebrate each other’s differences!  Our society and media often stresses conformity; however, children need to understand that each individual has their own unique gifts and talents.  It is the variety of abilities, ambitions, and passions that make people so interesting, and it is these differences which add to the rich diversity of our society. Parents can draw their children’s attention to these ranges of differences, and teach their children about the importance and outcomes of one’s freedom of choice.  This also demonstrates tolerance in the eyes of the child, particularly when these variations differ from their own family’s values and/or beliefs.

 As we grow as unique persons,
we learn to respect the uniqueness of others. ~ Robert Schuller

4) Understanding the meaning of respect begins with liking and appreciating oneself.  The development of a child’s self-esteem does not happen overnight.  When a person likes him/herself, they are less likely to put others down.  Parents are encouraged to praise their child when they do something well, or if they show kindness to another.  The use of good-natured humour is also an effective way to help guide and shape a child’s developing values and appreciation of him/herself and others.

5) Respect is also an attitude!  Teaching children social graces and manners is a combination of training and role modelling by the significant adults in their lives.  It is important to teach children how they can show polite consideration to another person, and how they can treat others with courtesy.

Parents and teachers must always choose their words and express their attitudes very carefully.  It is important to proactively help, guide, and role model respectful attitudes and behaviours within the family, in a classroom, or when out in the larger world.  In this way, children will learn to develop a positive attitude, stronger sense of self-worth, and greater awareness, tolerance, and appreciation of the differences, uniqueness, and choices of others. 

Linda Sweet  M.S. Ed.
Founder and Director, Glenburnie School 
Pre-School to Grade 8 
Providing a progressive and innovative private school education www.glenburnieschool.com
www.lindasweet.ca/blog