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How Do We Teach Children Respect?

Updated on December 20, 2016
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2008 Summer Olympics Taekwondo

2008 Summer Olympics Taekwondo
2008 Summer Olympics Taekwondo | Source

I was recently required to record my thoughts on respect and the part it plays in my Tae Kwon Do training, and it got me thinking about what the word really means and how it plays a part in our daily lives. How do we teach our children how to be respectful?

Respect in Tae Kwon Do

At the Tae Kwon Do school respect is integral to how students learn. Firstly by the respect displayed by teachers and students towards their appearance of the school itself. Wearing a clean uniform, keeping the environment tidy and using the equipment respectfully all show how the school is valued by all who use it. Students also show good respect to each other and their teachers through bowing, saying thank you, using the appropriate title to address each other and using courtesy when moving around the building and floor. Respect is also demonstrated during lesson time through the way the instructors are constantly changing and adapting their teaching style with students. Not all students learn in the same way or speed and this is understood by instructors.

What Exactly is Respect?

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines respect as

: a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.

: a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way

: a particular way of thinking about or looking at something

Sign Asking for Respectful Behavior

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What does this Mean to Children?

For young children respect can be explained in two ways -

Respect is how you feel about someone.

If you have respect for someone then you value them. Children should also be taught to respect themselves.

Respect is how you treat someone.

If you show respect towards someone and treat them in a respectful way then your behavior is demonstrating that you have respect for that person.

This can be applied to both people and objects or possessions.Treating people with courtesy, good manners and treating them how you would like to be treated is respectful behavior.


How do Children Learn Respectful Behavior?

So how do we teach children to be respectful? For many adults their idea of respect comes from a combination of how they were brought up and the values of their religion and the society. We assume that the behavior we model will be repeated and valued by our children.

I grew up in a culture where respect was valued, it was part of everyday life. Respect towards elders, teachers and each other was observed on a daily basis. At school we would stand when a teacher entered the room, a sign of respect to someone in authority and always addressed adults as Sir or Miss. Taking turns, giving up your seat to someone your senior, listening to others in a conversation, using good manners were all modeled to me regularly. I clearly remember phrases such as ‘treat others as you would like them to treat you’ used at school and at home and the importance of being a role model for others. It was emphasized that we were part of a community, that we were representing the school when walking to and from the building in our uniform.

How can we Ensure we Teach Respect Correctly?

To support children’s learning of respectful behavior it is important to be good role models. In order for your child to develop the behavior you desire adults need to consistently model that behavior - using good manners, following rules and being open minded need to be part of your daily life. This should be followed up with not tolerating disrespectful behavior. If children are rude they need to know it is not acceptable and it is useful to discuss why they are talking/feeling that way. This also teaches that listening to each other is important, it is a way to show respect and that taking some ones feelings in to account.

Sesame Street - Respect Video

Examples of Ways/Concepts to Teach Respect
Honesty
Fairness
Politeness
Openminded
Looking after beleongings
Responsibilities
Reliable
Good Listener
Following rules

Lead by Example - Make Healthy Food Choices

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Self Respect

Part of developing respectful behavior is developing positive self respect. Self respect is of vital importance to ensure children have high self worth and feel valuable. This can be achieved through several ways, starting by leading by example. If children see adults taking care of their appearance, eating healthily and exercising they too will prioritize making healthy choices. Another way is to demonstrate that your child is valuable to you through taking their point of view and opinion into consideration. Ask questions about their interests, ask follow up questions to show you have listened and demonstrate respect towards their feelings, privacy and property. By demonstrating pride in children's behavior and achievements they will develop confidence and self respect.

It is also important to provide children with opportunities to fail. By learning that mistakes are part of everyday life children develop strategies on how to cope when faced with challenges and problems.

How do we Teach Children to deal with others who are not Respectful?

The difficulty for children comes when the values they are taught conflict with those of the people they are interacting with. It is important to help them navigate those situations also.

Take the value of punctuality as an example. To some this is very important. If an arrangement is made for a set time both parties should arrive at that time. Unexpected events occur in life and its ok if someone is unavoidably late. However some people are habitually late, arrive without explanation and think nothing of doing so. The person who is kept waiting who values punctuality is not feeling respected, on the other hand the person who may come from a culture where it is not considered late to arrive past the agreed time will not feel respected when they are met with hostility or frustration. How do we help children navigate these differences?

Another good example in today's society is the use of cell phones. Some people use them wherever they are, answer them in the middle of a conversation with others and have phone conversations in public places. if you are someone who thinks this is disrespectful How do you handle this situation? What should a child do?

Children will follow what they see happening. If you interrupt your conversation with them to answer a phone then they will accept it from others. By spending time with positive role models and learning to be tolerant of others and their differences, children will develop strategies to deal with behavior that they do not regard as respectful. By fostering confidence and self respect they will have the skills to remove themselves from making poor choices when other do.

Video Illustrating Types of Respectful and Disrespectful Behaviors

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