I’m convinced that most dads want to raise a successful, emotionally healthy, polite child.
And that’s awesome! Teaching kids respect is one of the best gifts you can give to your son or daughter and to a world in desperate need of genuine people.
A lot of parents, though, want the reward without the work. They want their children to give respect but don’t model it at home. In fact, they trust teachers or coaches to give their kids life skills more than they trust themselves.
If that describes you in any way, I don’t mean to make you feel bad. However, I think it’s time to start taking steps toward being the best parent you can be.
It’s never too late and the obstacles are never too great.
I believe you can do it because I’ve seen hundreds of fathers figure it out, too.
The issue is complex, I know. Some of our deficiencies as parents, as dads, stem from our own tough childhood. And some of the challenges that come with raising a respectful child are caused by the DNA of our kids.
But, today, we’re not going to make excuses.
We’re going to work under the assumption that when our child is disrespectful to another kid, teacher, coach, or any other person, it’s because we haven’t done our jobs as parents.
Teaching kids respect begins with us.
With that as our starting point, let’s get super practical with 9 ways to raise respectful children.
Create family rules
I’ve talked about this before and I believe this was one of the best things my wife and I did for our family early on. Pull everybody together and develop a simple list of rules that the whole family commits to following.
When someone acts inconsistently with your family rules, you can point to the family rules chart.
The best part about creating these rules as a team is that your kids see an example of parents who care and are invested in helping them become respectful and successful adults.
Deal with this issue while kids are young
Have you ever played “Whack a Mole?” Dealing with disrespect in our kids can feel like a real-life version of that game. You’ll catch yourself saying the following phrases on repeat:
- “Did that sound respectful to you? Why not?”
- “We don’t treat other people that way.”
- “Don’t forget rule #_. We decided that was important as family.”
- “Do you think that was a respectful thing to do?”
As annoying as it can be to remind your kids of the same thing over and over… and over… and over… it’s important to be consistent.
This is especially true at an early age.
The longer you wait to address bad behavior, the harder it will be to fix it later on. So, buckle up for the longest (and most important) game of “Whack a Mole” you’ve ever played!
Set realistic expectations
Your kids, whether they actually do it or not, want to please their parents. The want to know right and wrong and how they are expected to act.
So, it’s up to us to set up a game they can win. How do we do that?
- Make sure your expectations are age-appropriate
- Celebrate “wins” more than you correct bad behavior
- Give rewards for positive, respectful behavior
- Don’t overreact when your child acts out. Shaming never got anybody anywhere
Start with manners
You are probably thinking by now, “Okay. This is good stuff. But where do I start?!” The easiest and best place to begin teaching kids respect is with their manners. Teach them these simple things and they’ll be well on their way to becoming polite kids:
- Say “thank you” every time someone gives you a gift or does something kind for you.
- Say “please” when you ask for something.
- Say “excuse me” when you need to get someone’s attention or when you’re in someone’s way.
- Say “sorry” when we do something wrong.
- Hold the door open for someone.
- Tell a military veteran “thank you for your service.”
Model respectful behavior
As much as our kids will hear what we say, the most effective teaching tool is what we show them at home. They will model exactly what they see you do. Scary, huh?
So, make sure that YOU say “thank you” every time someone is kind, that YOU say “please” when you ask for something, YOU say “excuse me” when you need to get someone’s attention, YOU say “sorry,” YOU hold the door open for people, YOU tell a veteran “thank you for your service.”
Apologize when you mess up
The best leaders, parents, and teachers I’ve met are the ones who a courageous enough to be vulnerable with the people they are leading. In fact, when they are able to admit when they mess up or talk about their imperfections, it makes me want to follow them more.
The same is true for your kids. Show them that you can admit your mistakes and that you are working to be a better dad, husband, and father.
As a result, they will not only want to follow you more but they will realize the importance of working on being more respectful.
Don’t take it personally
Men take everything personally. Let’s just admit it.
Rodney Dangerfield is famous for saying what every man is thinking: “I don’t get no respect! No respect at all!”
When it comes to parenting, don’t assume that every time your kids misbehave that they are disrespecting you. The truth is that, for them, learning to be polite is like learning to ride a two-wheeler. They will eventually start figuring it out after a few days of getting scrapes and bruises.
So, the more you can mix grace with correction, and not take things personally, the more effective you’ll be.
Podcast Ep. 99 Teaching Our Kids Respect
There’s nothing worse than setting expectations for your kids and not following through.
If you tell your kids that you’re going to leave the restaurant after any disrespectful behavior, you have to actually do it. As difficult as it is, say, “We can try this again when you are feeling better” and then walk out.
The gist of it is that you have to follow through on whatever rules you put into place. Otherwise, your kids won’t take you seriously.
Reinforce respectful behavior
This last one might be the most important. Our tendency is to focus on bad behavior, to draw attention the things our children shouldn’t be doing.
The key to teaching kids respect, on the other hand, is pointing out every single time they do something RIGHT! Here are some great examples to keep in mind:
- “I heard you say ‘please’ when you asked for a drink of water. That was awesome!”
- “When your mom put your dinner in front you last night, you said ‘thank you.’ Thanks for being so respectful to her.”
- “You were very polite to our waitress at the restaurant tonight. Thanks for setting such a good example for your little brother.”
These may sound forced or contrived, but I can promise you that intentionality is the silver bullet to raising successful, emotionally healthy, polite children.
What would you add to the list? Is there anything you’ve done that has worked well? We’d love to hear about it!