8. Respectful Communication
Listen To Them
Nobody likes to be ignored, nobody likes to feel that they’re being ignored. The reason why I make this distinction is because it is all about how actions are perceived by others. If we are ‘listening’ to someone but we are not making eye contact or we are putting away groceries at the same time; the other person might feel she’s being ignored. This has the same effect as if we, in fact, were ignoring her.
When our children feel we are not listening to them, they feel unimportant, small, unappreciated, not valued, unworthy of our attention (and love). Children need us to fully listen to them, validate their message and respond accordingly. They need our undivided attention.
I’m not saying that you should drop everything as soon as your child wants to talk to you. That wouldn’t teach them respect, it would teach them that we don’t have enough respect for ourselves and that we are at their beck and call all the time. They will learn that lesson and believe that what we are doing at any given moment is not important and they can interrupt and demand immediate attention.
That’s not what I’m suggesting. What I am suggesting is that we acknowledge our child’s need for connection and conversation. If we are doing something else, we can let them know we heard them and we will be with them as soon as we can. While doing this, we need to be mindful to not make our children feel like they always have to wait, and that there’s always something more important than they are. We need to strike a balance, and that’s the tricky part!
Let Them Finish
We all know the feeling of trying to make a point or express our opinion, while the other person is constantly interrupting us. We feel ignored, disrespected and frustrated, and we probably lose interest in talking to that person again.
When we do that to our children, we are showing them that we don’t care about what they are talking about, and that we feel that what we have to do is more important or interesting than what they’re saying. Whether we mean it or not, that’s the message our children receive.
Because of my childhood experiences, I feel specially hurt when I feel that someone is constantly highjacking my conversation. That’s why I am especially attentive when it comes to give my children the chance to finish their thoughts, and to fully express their ideas before interjecting mine.
Encourage Them To Use Their Voice
Our children need to know that what they think, feel and say matters. They need to know that their voices count, and they should use them. What better place to learn and practice this than at home?
Let your children make choice, solve problem, make decisions, and express their opinions -even if they’re different than yours.
Don’t belittle their opinions by saying “that makes no sense”, “what do you know?, you’re just a kid”, “don’t question my decisions”, “that’s ridiculous”… Instead invite them to share and explain their point of view with sentences such as “what do you think about that?”, “what do you think we should do?”, “can you explain me that better?”.
Avoid talking for your children. Let them answer for themselves when talking to other people. That will not only show them that you respect their opinions, but that you expect other people to respect them as well.
That’s a great way to let them know you respect them, that they should respect themselves and that they’re worth being respected by others. When our children learn how to use their voice, it becomes their biggest defense against bullying, low self-esteem, and even sexual abuse. Let them learn this at home!
9. Foster Autonomy
Don’t Do For Your Children What They Can Do For Themselves
You might be wondering what does this have to do with raising respectful kids. When we treat our children like babies and do everything for them, we are in fact, disrespecting. In fact, you are crippling them. Undue service is disrespectful.
When our children learn that they are capable, and that they can be self-sufficient, they grow into responsible adults, with pride in their capabilities, and with great self-esteem. They know they can manage, and it makes them so much happier. You know how you feel when you accomplish something difficult. Let them enjoy the same joy and be their cheering section when they do.
In general, avoid doing for your children what he can do for themselves. Give them space and time to do things for themselves. There’s nothing to gain from stripping away our child’s autonomy – even when they are really little – other than the short-term relief of not having to be patient and calm, as our child struggles to do something on his own. Let them do it!
Allow Them To Make Their Own Decisions
Allowing your children to make their own decisions is one of the best ways to empower them, and show them that you respect them and their ideas. Obviously, I am not suggesting that our children should run our household. The idea is to let them make age-appropriate decisions, within certain parameters defined by you.
For example, your toddler can choose his outfit out of two you have already picked out. Your preschooler can decide whether he wants to eat the broccoli and the mashed potatoes together or separately. Your elementary school child can choose whether he reads the book to you or whether you read it to him. Your high schooler can choose when it’s the best time for him to do his homework.
When we don’t give our children the choice to make their own decision, it will foster an inability to make their own decisions later in life. They will not be able to respect their own opinions and ideas, because they have learned that those ideas are wrong or not worth considering. Therefore, they will navigate life with no self-confidence, no self- esteem, and. no respect for themselves.
I hope this series about how to raise respectful children was helpful to you. Is there anything I’ve missed? Let me know!
Much love, Diana-