Why Asking a Child to “Show Respect” is a Losing Battle and What to Do Differently

I know we have all heard the phrase, “You need to show respect.” We use this phrase all too often, but I am asking you to stop and think about the following question.

Have you explicitly taught how and why we show respect?

For example, your little (or big) one is talking over you while you are speaking and you look them in the eye and command they show you some respect when you are talking. You know what your expectations are when you give this phrase, but the other person in this situation may not have a clear idea of what is expected of them or why this is an expectation.

As a teacher, I see this situation all too often. We, as teachers and human beings, assume our students know how to be respectful in the learning environment, but we fail to step back and think about if we have even taught this skill. We assume our students were just born with a well developed social compass… but that just isn’t the case.

I know what you are thinking. I don’t need to explicitly teach my child about respect. They should know what respect is. But the truth is, respect looks different depending on the situation and environment. (No worries, below you will find a video to show your little one the whats and whys of respect.)

In the classroom, I am specific on what I am asking a child. For instance, if someone is talking over me, I will say, “Can you show me what listening with respect looks like?” I am not saying, “You need to be respectful.” I must let the child know that my expectations are listening with respect, and in order for the child to do what is expected I must have directly taught them. Otherwise, I am leaving their behavior to chance.

Other areas of respect can be playing with respect, speaking to others with respect, and even moving with respect. (I will get into all of this in my video.)

The second piece of this skill (yes, being respectful is a skill) is giving your child the “why” behind being respectful. This pretty much boils down to The Golden Rule. Children are capable of putting themselves in the shoes of others.

Explicitly teaching empathy, or walking in someone else’s shoes, will be a game changer when you are working on being respectful.

Would you like some help with teaching this lesson? Show this video to your little one and feel free to use my language to make this skill stick!

Be sure to subscribe to my channel so you can receive updates on my videos for elementary kids!

I have started a YouTube Channel to promote positive social and emotional development. I am posting videos centered on being kind to yourself and being kind to others. I post three videos a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I will continue to post content centered toward parents right here on Inspired and Rewired, so be sure to drop your email below!

Jocelyn Soliz is an educator, certified Yoga teacher for adults and children, and a mother to a feisty toddler. Read Jocelyn’s inspiring comeback story, “Medicated to Meditated.” Feel free to send Jocelyn a message here

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