It’s tough to teach respect.
Especially when you’re battling for your life.
I’m talking about the dreaded D-word. Divorce.
After my wife and I started divorce proceedings, my son was a wreck. We tried to save our marriage, but no amount of talking it out or counseling provided a solution.
My son and I both had to learn how to effectively handle and categorize our shattered emotions. We worked hard and grow stronger from our struggles together.
Some days are tough. I’m trying to raise my son into a kind, compassionate man. That takes patience and work.
Ah, respect: that old standby that allows us to effectively interact with our fellow humans.
But how to teach respect to kids?
Children aren’t born knowing about respect. No, they start out as insanely selfish little people who wake you up at 3AM and scream at you when they’re mad or frustrated.
Children learn respect through observation and ultimately, trial and error in school and the real world.
We all know the basic tenets like saying “please” and “thank you”. More complex ideals like expressing gratitude when receiving a present that you hate from a distant relative take time and practice.
Even harder is respecting people in power who maybe don’t deserve our respect.
How you see and teach respect changes based on your family, beliefs, and lifestyle. But everyone agrees that teaching respect is a critical component of preparing our children for the outside world.
How do you do teach respect without boring talks of respecting your elders and You will be polite! admonitions?
Is there ever a good time to teach respect?
Surely not during a life-changing event like death or divorce, right?
That’s exactly where I find myself. Healing from divorce, looking for the positive, and teaching respect through tough times provides a great opportunity to guide my son and remind myself of critical lessons in respect.
Here are 4 ways to teach respect to kids without shoving it down their throats.
- You’re always being watched. No matter what’s going on in your life, your children are paying attention to your every move. It doesn’t matter if you had a bad day at the office or you had a flat tire, taking your anger out on the person who failed to hold the door open for you at the gas station is not the way to act in front of your child. Doh!
- Continually teach empathy. However, since we’re all human and tend to lose our cool from time to time, it’s not too late to make right. If you do happen to lose it in front of your child, apologizing, explaining afterwards if possible and making a promise to yourself to do better next time is a great way to teach them empathy and boost your own emotional IQ.The tricky part about teaching children this tenet, however, is that it’s an ongoing lesson for both adults and children, so working on empathy together can help both you and your child grow as individuals, while also building the foundation for the next tenet.
- Maintain transparency. This is a hard pill for some parents to swallow. Instead of keeping your daily stress and anger inside like some big secret, talk to your child about the emotions that you’re experiencing. However, this isn’t an open invitation to blame everyone or everything for your emotional maladies.Own your emotions and explain to your child why you feel that way. This applies in all situations, even if your child is being a pill and thus, even more so during difficult life-changing situations that can change a child for life, like death or divorce.
- Know when to get help. Pain happens. Death, divorce, illness, and more. It can wreak havoc on a child’s emotional state. The loss of a loved one can turn a once happy child into a sack of tears. If your child is no longer interested in their favorite activities and/or experiencing sleeping or behavioral problems, it may be time for them to talk to a school or family counselor. Either one can help provide insight into your child’s behavior as well as how to best support them.
Have pride but don’t be prideful. Your child is worth it, so seek help if nothing else is working.
And know that you’ve got this. You’re strong enough and you do have worth.
We can all teach respect by modeling respect.