Teaching Kids about Respect

Teaching Kids about Respect


How we treat ourselves and others is our personal business card. The earlier and sooner we can get our youth to understand this concept the easier life may be for them as they transition into adulthood.

Before you read any further know this is not an iron-fist ruling based philosophy that is intended to break your child’s spirit or thought process. That is almost a guaranteed way to teach your kids to not think for themselves or even become angry and rebellious against authority. This is about teaching your kids how to treat and communicate with people who have positions of authority in their life. Should we teach our kids to listen to every adult? No, that is not what is being implied; however, there are certain people in their lives they should be taught to always obey. It is your responsibility as a parent to communicate with your kid and make sure your kids know which adults in their lives have positions of authority over them. Unfortunately, we just cannot give our kids a blank statement of “all adults” as we do live in a world where not all adults should be given authority over our children and this is where other life lessons are critical to them having a well rounded understanding of this topic.

There are some responses that should not be acceptable from our youth. As you continue to read further keep in mind it is not the use of the actual words that is the problem; rather, what kind of attitude and demeanor are they presenting when using certain words in their responses and communication towards you and other people who have positions of authority.

“NO”. Parents, we know this one can light a fire in the depths of our soul. Take a deep breath. When our children tell us forwardly they will not comply with what has been just asked of them they are consciously and directly choosing to be disrespectful. This should not even be acceptable when they are trying to pass it off as a “joking response”. If they say no and still go do what was asked their response to you should still be discussed. No; however, is a word that should be taught to be used WHEN THEY MEAN IT! There are many circumstances where they would NEED to use this word and they NEED to know this word is a word that sets boundaries. (Parents – please remember this is only about circumstances in which yourself or other adult who has authority over your child ask them to comply with a legitimate request.)

“WAIT”. When we ask our children to do something we should set certain expectations. How you approach this is entirely a parental preference.  However, as the cliche saying goes “slow obedience is no obedience”. Children waiting to do things asked of them until THEY decide to do it without further communication on their part should never be an option.  Some parents prefer for their kids to immediately shift to what is being asked of them and I think for younger ages this is most often a reasonable and practical approach and expectation. However, sometimes kids may ask, “Mom or Dad may I finish doing this first then do that?” IF the task can wait we should allow some flexibility and award their proper communication ONLY if they presented their question to you with THE RIGHT ATTITUDE and TONE THE VERY FIRST TIME THEY ASK. They should not be allowed flexibility if their initial response is throwing a fit or having attitude then coming back and asking to do it later.  They also should not be allowed this flexibility every single time. They need to know that parental expectations and expectations from adults sometimes mean now.

For myself and having kids who are now in their teen years I am trying to prepare them to transition into independent adults. Part of that is helping them understand priorities. At their ages, if I do not make myself clear on a timeframe to complete the task asked of them I do expect my children to ask “how high on the priority list is this task”. This allows us to promote healthy communication as well as help them become more responsible and accountable with protization. As adults, when we have meetings with our bosses and they give us a list of things to get done or as our bosses keep adding things to our to-do list daily it is important for us to understand and know our bosses expectations and deadlines. We gain this understanding by asking our bosses similar questions if they did not specify urgency or deadlines.

“YEAP, OKAY, SURE”. TRY AGAIN! For the rest of lives we all have to answer to authorities. This is one of the simplest ways to show and acknowledge respect. It is also one of the most universally and multi-culturally understood signs of respect. Ensuring your kids add ma’am and sir to the end of yes and no EVERY SINGLE TIME and WITH a RESPECTFUL TONE will help them understand respect is always expected from them. 

“I’M NOT EATING THIS/ I DON’T WANT THIS”. Certain medical conditions aside and even sometimes certain foods aside (because we do all have something that we absolutely shrivel with disgust the moment we smell or taste it) children should be taught to eat their vegetables and the meals being served before them. We should also let them know it is okay to express their dislike for their meal (WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE and TONE), but throwing a fit at the dinner table or demanding “junk foods” all the time should not be tolerated. Children should learn to be grateful to the person who took their time to prepare them a meal (even though we are legally obligated to do so) and for the meal whether it is their favorite meal or not. I do equally think parents should be respectful of their kids as an individual human and maybe not give them an enormous portion of foods that are not their favorites then sit there and force them to eat it all. They should also not be rewarded with desserts if they cannot maintain a healthy balance of foods in their diets. Children should be aware of and educated on the harsh reality that all children do not have three meals and day some may even not have foods for days at a time. They should always remain grateful for even the smallest things such as three meals a day rather than being allowed to disrespectfully express disgust then being allowed to go grab whatever they decide it is they want to eat.

“NOTHING”At no point should a child ever be allowed to just say or do nothing. Yes, some children are shy and personality traits should be taken into account; however, when it comes to being respectful they should always be expected to speak when they are being spoken to. With exceptionally shy kids this may take more coaching on the parents end. Certainly, you would not want to stand there for extended periods of time expecting your kids to reply if it is blatantly obvious they will not. This can not only cause more embarrassment for you as a parent, but also your child. Take whatever approach you see as necessary,  but at this point choose to address the situation in a more private setting and continue to coach them on appropriate responses to adults.

Respect goes hand in hand with healthy communication. Communication is how we navigate through life and is a part of every single interaction we have even if it is non-verbal (more on that next blog). 

See you around the gym, my friends.


Stay tuned for more blogs! Gladiators Academy of Lafayette is Lafayette Louisiana’s elite martial arts facility for children and adults with a character development program used to help build people into better people and an accountability system in place.