Pam Leo once said, “however we treat the child, the child will treat the world.” This powerful statement holds significant meaning for those of us who identify as parents or guardians.
Our children watch us each and every day. The ways in which we treat them and others is ultimately internalized and affect how they interact with others. Children are, at times, referred to as “tiny humans.” However, it is important to remember that they are human beings, no matter their size, shape, or age, and as such, they have feelings, moods, ideas, opinions, thoughts, and boundaries. It is important that we respect this, just as we ask to be respected in this way. Our children, no matter what age or stage, are no less worthy of respect than we are.
Respect, also called esteem, is a positive feeling or action shown towards someone or something considered important or held in high esteem or regard. It conveys a sense of admiration for good or valuable qualities. One of the most important and powerful ways to teach our children how to be respectful is to model it for them.
Here are some ways that you can demonstrate mutual respect for your child:
Use respectful language and tones as you speak with your kids, even when you are setting boundaries or limits. Remember, how we talk to our children is how they talk to the world.
Acknowledge the things that you appreciate in your child’s actions and behavior. Give them positive feedback.
Listen to your child attentively; stop what you are doing so that you can make eye contact and be fully present to hear what they have to say.
Teach them how to use their manners, please, thank you, excuse me, etc. by using yours.
Respect your child’s personal space, modeling how important personal space is to each of us.
Respect your child’s boundaries. This might look like allowing your children the option to go hug or kiss their aunt when she arrives if they want to. We can teach our kids to listen to their instinct and help them to feel like they can make these choices.
Include your children in daily conversations, and when possible, daily decision-making.
Be honest with your children. Sometimes that means being vulnerable with them. When we show our children that we trust them with the truth, they will learn how important the truth is.
Take accountability for your own actions. If you make a mistake, own it and repair it. Discussing it at the family dinner table might help others to learn from your example.
Honoring and respecting your child’s emotions, thoughts, and opinions can help them to honor and respect them as well. Connecting with emotions is a part of everyday life. The more we help our children do this, the better they can respect it in themselves and others, as well. If we want to teach our children to learn and understand how to respect and be respected, the best way to do so is by modeling it for them.