Respect Must Be Mutual with Kids

By Jo Ann Wentzel


The majority of grownups and especially those from a different era, constantly complain that kids have no respect for their elders. In many cases, this seems true as the kids are not as considerate or polite as they once were.

Standards have changed along with lifestyles and clothes. We must adjust to some of the new ways but, we must also stick to our values. This does not mean we should expect children to send handwritten notes out to thank people for things they have done for them or given them. That is becoming quite old fashioned. Although it is still a lovely thing to do and most folks really appreciate it; almost no one even sends handwritten letters anymore, so its time may be over. This does not mean a parent should allow a child to neglect to thank people. Children must still learn to respect others, be considerate of them and also polite to them but, I believe respect should be mutual.

Although teens are younger than adults and elderly people still expect a degree of deference to themselves; they sometimes forget to give it to others. They almost never give it to teens or children.

The lesson of people respecting each other is only valuable when it is lived, not just talked about. When elderly people expect respect but, do not give it to even teenagers, they are doing an injustice to kids.

The only way that young people learn is if they are taught. When a parent neglects this part of their education, grandparents should fill in the gap. This of course should take place when they are young since it is much less effective when they are older. Example is still the best teacher, but sometimes when kids are not getting it, you must explain it first. No matter what age they are we must try to create a sense of respect to their elders and the older generation should return that respect when earned.

Tell kids that you want to show respect to them, by asking if they are ready for dinner instead of just demanding they come to the table and feeding them. You can ask them to check with you before they start watching a long TV show at your house. You may have other plans. A guest usually shows respect to their hostess and asks permission to engage in some activity if it is in the other personís house. Tell them that when you step out of the way for them to get through that is a form of respect. Kids often almost knock folks over always assuming whatever they are doing is more important than other peopleís activities. It is a good idea to praise them for small actions of politeness and courtesy so they come to understand that is appreciated by other folks.

Teach kids to be respectful by expecting them to wait till you finish a sentence before they interrupt you. Now, you do the same to them. Do not interrupt them, criticize them, or act in any disrespectful way that you would not use with any adult. Adults still must remain in control but, they must show respect to kids or they will not grow up knowing what it is.

Respect for teens, means listening to all they have to say carefully and responding in a way that shows understanding, even when shocked. Respecting a child means not sharing secrets and keeping quiet about confidential discussions with others regardless of the age of the child. The only time it is okay to break a confidence is when imminent danger is present. Breaking a confidence could lose you the respect and even love of a teen.

When showing a child respect, do not talk down to them. To treat any age child like a baby is usually the wrong thing to do since they perceive this as disrespect and a demonstration of not really valuing them.

Respect is a tricky thing but, by following the golden rule regardless of the age of the person you are dealing with is the best way to foster respect and caring between people.

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