New Year Parenting Goals: Can ‘RESPECT’ be taught to children?


The children in their attempt to be acknowledged tend to exaggerate the matter which then turns disrespectful. (Representative image)

By Seema Lal

Anything that can be learnt, can be taught as well. The simplest way to teach respect to children is by being respectful to them. Children tend to become disrespectful in the face of a disagreement or a difference of opinion or when things do not go their way. The skill here in question is learning how to disagree with dignity. This is a skill much in need especially if children have access to social media and end up leaving documented evidence for a lifetime about their choices of words while disagreeing with someone on the internet. Most often children do not do as we say, but do as we do.

Let us explore the acronym RESPECT.

#R Regulate, Relate, Reason
Most often parents end up reasoning with their children who are already upset or irritated and then the argument escalates to become disrespectful. If you attempt to interrupt their flow of thought or speech, they end up feeling unheard and misunderstood. You can attempt to reason with a child only if they are relating with you and that can happen only if they are in a self-regulated state of mind.

#E Emotions Escalation Exaggeration
Emotions are unavoidable when there is a disagreement. Be prepared to deal with the anger or sadness that follow. If the parent does not show that they understand and acknowledge the child’s emotions the argument is likely to escalate. The children in their attempt to be acknowledged tend to exaggerate the matter which then turns disrespectful.

#S Slow, Silence, Show
During disagreements usually we tend to speak faster and louder and there is hardly any pause or silence. Both parent and child are totally focused only on winning the argument. As an adult, it will be up to the parent to show their children how to disagree with dignity by slowing down and being silent when the other is speaking.

#P Person Polite Pardon
Person first. Disagree with the idea and not the person your child is. If you attack the child through your words they will in turn become disrespectful and do the same. In case either of you end up using inappropriate words or comments – make sure you pardon them and ask for pardon too.

#E Excuse Engage End
If you notice the matter escalating, excuse yourself from the situation and wait till emotions are settled on either side. Continue only when both of you can engage in a meaningful discussion or debate. Ask questions if you do not understand what they are saying. Avoid making assumptions. Always end the disagreement with love. Let your child know that you still love them unconditionally no matter what.

#C: Calm Connect Cooperate
If you notice that your children are upset even after the disagreement is over. Go back to them at a later time when they are calmer and connect with them by showing that you still care. Children will cooperate only if you are calm and seek connection.

#T: Think Thank Train
Think before you speak. There is no hurry to retort with a reply. Your children will copy you and do the same. When they listen calm, acknowledge the same and thank them for doing so. Train yourself on all of the above each time you get an opportunity to disagree with your child. And no doubt there will be plenty!

The columnist is Co-Founder of Together We Can, a Kochi based advocacy group that addresses issues related to Mental Health, Education, Disability, Child-Parent empowerment. Views expressed are the columnist’s own.

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