Respecting children: why it matters and how to show it

Maya Angelou, an American poet and civil rights activist, once said, “If we lose love and self-respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” In our world as it is today, respect is one of the most valuable lessons that we can learn in life. To respect ourselves and others gives each person a sense of self-worth that can transfer into every aspect of our lives, and it begins in childhood. It is always said that our children are our future, yet oftentimes society forgets that we are the ones that mold that future. While we teach our children that they must respect us, the lesson that is often lost is that we must also respect them in return.

You can instill respect in your children through example in many ways. A simple phrase of “excuse me” in day-to-day conversations can instill a respect for others when you make the effort to not interrupt them. Everyone should feel as though what they have to say is important and valued. You should never cut off your child’s voice. Speech is the tool that they use to communicate with everyone, not just you. It is how they express their thoughts, feelings and desires, and if you make an effort to not restrict this, you will in turn teach them to respect the voices of their peers, of the adults around them and of their own children when that time comes in the future.

It is also important to respect your child’s personal space. This can be different for each child. Everyone has different idiosyncrasies and preferences when it comes to personal space. Your child should be able to feel comfortable with you, whether it be in how they socially interact with you or physically interact with you. Teaching children love and respect through example at an early age will show them that they are in a safe environment and that they can trust you unconditionally.

Try to avoid constantly ordering or directing your child. You are the boss; they should know this, but they should also feel that they have choices. Set boundaries and let your child work freely within those boundaries themselves. If you respect your child’s time and wishes and give them your trust, they will learn that you are not the enemy but an ally who’s there for them.

When in doubt, remember the golden rule, to treat others as you would wish to be treated, and apply it to your child. If you lead by example, your child will follow. Remember that you are the biggest person in their world for only a short period of time, so make the most of the time that is given to you.

Character Lives