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Realize Empathetic Speech Protects, Empowers, & Constructs Trust (R.E.S.P.E.C.T.)

Well, I may have reached a bit far for the acronym, but still...There is a method of teaching your children to treat you with respect that takes genuine courage to harness. So pluck up your nerve and stay with me. This is the only method that works. It works for the long haul and it works for every child in every culture and home. Read and be encouraged!

Ralphie's mom: "Where did you here that word?"

Adult Ralphie as narrator: " I had heard that word every day of my life from my old man..."

-"A Christmas Story" following the "Oh Fu---dge!" incident.

In this blog I give a lot of space to reminding us all that we are our children's first and best teachers. Even when we do a bit of unintended teaching, they are watching and listening and following right behind us. Right in our footsteps. There they are. Watching. Listening. Imitating. All. The. Time. Truth.

To set us up for the topic of the day, I am going to reiterate this: you are your child's best and most important teacher. Your words, mannerisms, attitudes, habits and more will, for good or ill, live in your child's memory all the days of their life. Count on it.

This includes respect. As with all else, children learn how to be respectful from watching and listening to you. Not teachers or music artists, actors, or politicians. You. Teaching your children to respect others begins with what they experience from you. It starts from the earliest days.

Ground zero of your child's point of reference for respect is how well you respect them. Hear me clearly: the only way to teach your child to respect you is for you to respect them. How frequently you demonstrate respect for your child will directly determine how well they return it. Display respect consistently. Take the responsibility to show respect seriously. This is the first step to gain your child's respect: give respect. You are the grownup. Set the example. Use the word and teach the concept.

Here are some tips and tidbits for demonstrating respect and then EXPECTING that respect to be returned to you. This is, as in all things parenting, a long term process.

  1. No negative nicknames. I've heard babies and toddlers called some of the most insulting and humiliating names imaginable by the people who are supposed to treat them with respect. Here are a couple I'm sort of comfortable sharing. Turd, Fart Face, Monkey Butt, you get the picture. Now, I can hear you out there saying, "But Teresa! These are terms of endearment!" Let me say right now that any term that is not interpreted as loving by a casual listener is not a term of endearment. These kinds of nicknames create a coarse and crass atmosphere and keep real love shut out. Trust me on this. If "turd" is a term of endearment, think of how much more endearing it would be to use the term "pumpkin". Or, here's a crazy thought, use the beautiful name you chose for your beautiful child. Words matter.

  2. Be respectful to all in all situations. Your children are watching how you treat others in the world. The Bible tells us to honor one another above ourselves. So when you are cut off in traffic, or someone slips in to "your" gas pump at the convenience store, or you are waiting at TSA or the DMV or Costco, treat your fellow humans with respect, courtesy and dignity. There is no need to raise your voice, shout unkind names in frustration and behave unbecomingly. You can do better. And when you do, your children will learn better too. Demonstrate calm respect for others.

  3. Mocking your child is devastating to them. Stop it. If you want your child to have your back, start by having their back. If they drop something, say something, do something, assume something, whatever, do not make fun of them or point out their mistake to everyone around. Be kind and respectful as your child learns how to be a grown up human. Treat your children with the same respect that you want returned to you. If they are not laughing and everyone else is, you have hurt them. And they will remember. Words. Matter.

  4. Listen to them. Listening to another human being is the purest form of respect there is. Listen with the goal to understand and not simply to respond. The vast majority of us do not listen to our peers in this way, and most of us do not consider it important to truly listen to a child. You are missing the best opportunity to gain their respect. The next time your child wants to tell you something, stop talking, put down your phone, turn and face them and then really listen. Listen to all they have to say. Respond only when they want or need feedback. Ask questions. Listen. The words of children matter.

  5. Remind them to speak with respect. Your child will speak inappropriately to you. When this happens say in a calm, low voice, "I would like you to find a respectful way to say that. Try again." If necessary, say, "In our family we do not speak to each other disrespectfully. Tell me what you want to tell me respectfully." Keep your cool.

So here is the bottom line this week. Treat your children with respect. They are humans. They have emotions and thoughts and concerns just as you do. They are worthy of being regarded with favor. This is how we teach them to respect us. By respecting them first. Fearlessly treat your children with grace and respect.

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