Respectful people don’t materialize out of thin air. Treating others with respect is something that parents have to teach their children. Especially when it comes to raising respectful preschoolers, parents have to be very intentional in their efforts. If you are looking for ways to instill respect as a core trait in your children, here are some parenting tips to assist.
What Is Respect?
Respect is something most people can identify when it’s happening. But ask them to define it, and things get hazy. In parenting, “respect” can often get used instead of what is really meant — “obedience.”
And while obedience may be a part of a child respecting an adult, it’s certainly not the only factor, and it’s certainly not synonymous 100% of the time. In fact, children knowing that obedience and respect are different can help them from being manipulated by authority figures.
One of the best definitions we’ve seen of respect is, “Respect means you care enough to think about how you impact others.”
Ultimately, being respectful is being mindful. If your children think about how their actions impact others and, out of respect, try to make that impact positive — you’ve done it!
Raising Respectful Preschoolers
But how do you raise respectful children? Glad you asked.
- Be a Role Model – If you’ve read this blog at all, we present this advice all the time — children learn by observing their parents and copying their behavior. Your preschooler is still learning how to navigate the world around them, and you play a crucial role in shaping their behavior and attitudes towards others. So:
- Use polite language with other people.
- Treat others with kindness and empathy.
- When you make a mistake, apologize and take responsibility for your actions.
- Teach Empathy – The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley defines empathy as “the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.” When children are encouraged to think outside of themselves and imagine what another person’s experiences are like, it primes them to also consider how their actions may impact others.
- Teach the Importance of Boundaries – Teaching your child to respect the boundaries of others is an easy way for them to be respectful. So when someone says, “No,” “Stop,” or “Don’t,” they respect those requests. But don’t forget to practice that with your child! When you respect their boundaries and (reasonable) requests, they’ll have personal experience with being respected. When they know what respect looks like and how to model it, they’ll be more likely to show it to others.
- Use Positive Reinforcement – Celebrate good behavior! Praise your kiddo and reward them when they show empathy, are helpful or go out of their way to be kind.
- Teach Respectful Problem-Solving Skills – We are humans. Therefore, we have conflict. As unavoidable as conflict may be, kids need to know that arguments can be respectful.
- Teach (and model!) that harsh words don’t resolve conflict. They just make them worse.
- Teach kids how to read the emotions of other people.
- Teach children to compromise and problem-solve to find the best solution for everyone.
Raising respectful preschoolers requires a combination of modeling, teaching, and positive reinforcement. By following these handful of tips, parents can help their children develop the skills and attitudes needed to become respectful individuals. Remember, raising respectful children is a journey, and it takes time and patience to see the results.