Raising kids in a turbulent world can be difficult. We are constantly bombarded with negative influences and distractions, making teaching our children proper values and morals challenging. As a parent, you want your child to walk through life with their heads held high, but it takes some effort to get them there.
Childhood has changed drastically in the last decade or two and what wasn't acceptable for kids to do a couple of decades ago is now. Kids are exposed to things at earlier ages, making them grow up faster than they should.
We must continue our efforts to teach our children right from wrong, regardless of who says what. Here are 15 best practices for raising respectful kids.
1. Model good behavior.
Kids learn from their parents and will mimic both good and bad behaviors. This is why it is so important to show good behavior and respect for others. There are a lot of ways you can do this, from giving compliments to showing compassion. You may feel embarrassed when your child doesn't say please and thank you in public. You might even feel like you're getting judged.
Try not to let the judgment bother you, instead take the opportunity to remind your child why being polite matters. If they are aware that their actions can impact other's feelings, then they may continue to display poor manners. If they have that awareness, they may stop and think about what they are doing.
No one is born with manners in their arsenal. Instead, these actions have to get taught to every human being. This means that you have a big job at hand to set your child up for success.
2. Use polite communication.
Your child will speak to others the way you talk to them, so carefully choose your tone and words. You deserve to get treated with respect, so teach your child to treat you and others that way.
Teach your child the magic word. The "magic word" is a reminder to use please in any request you make. Make it clear that saying this word makes it easier for people to say yes and more difficult for them to say. If your child asks for a toy or piece of candy/food, start saying please every time. If they are old enough to understand what you're saying, tell them that it is polite to say thank you when receiving a gift as well.
Make a game out of kind phrases you want them to use, like saying please and thank you, roleplay, so they get comfortable being polite in conversations. Children also need to be taught what is and isn't appropriate to say in certain situations. They will learn on their own through trial and error, but your guidance is the best way to keep them from saying things that will embarrass themselves or you.
3. Teach good meal etiquette.
The last thing you want at the dinner table is to pear over at your child and see the remnants of your casserole getting devoured in their wide-open mouth. Not only is it unsightly, but it's unhygienic. Teach them to close their mouth when they eat and chew with their mouth shut.
Teach them to take small bites and never stuff too much food in their mouths.
Have them get used to this by putting their fork down between each bite. Speaking of forks, be sure also to include teaching your child how to use utensils properly. Unless you're having a pizza night or finger foods for dinner, children should always be encouraged to use the proper utensils. Lastly, be sure to remind them to always have a napkin on hand during a meal. The napkin should get placed correctly in their lap to catch any food that may drop. This will help them to avoid wiping their hands on their shirts.
4. Never pick your nose in public.
Always have a pack of tissues if your child needs to blow their nose while out and about. You don't want them wiping snot or boogers on the back of your seat or, worse, on your shirt. Show them there is a proper way to handle the fluid that may be leaking from their nose.
Not only does it come off as disgusting to others in public, but it can spread germs. They need to learn this because it is a way to keep germs off of their body and avoid having others think they are filthy.
5. Don't be a litterbug.
Teach your child or children to respect mother earth. Show you go pick up whatever trash you find on the ground around you. It is essential to teach children from a very young age what it means to be kind to others and mother earth because if this is instilled in them early, they will learn that you should not just leave a mess everywhere.
Do not throw food wrappers on the ground when finished with them. If a garbage can is nearby, kindly encourage them to dispose of their trash correctly. Try to volunteer with them to do a trash cleanup at your favorite park or local beach. It will help your child to learn to appreciate a clean surrounding. These small actions speak a lot to your children.
6. Help them explore different cultures.
Your child will welcome others' differences with respect rather than judge them. Allow them to meet people from different cultures and get to know about them. Let them know that each culture has its own set of unique traditions, and it is better to appreciate those differences rather than criticize or mock other people's ways.
You don't have to travel to other countries to achieve this either. Read a book about different cultures of the world or try a new restaurant with cuisine your family has never eaten.
Arts and crafts are another great way to explore different cultures. Make an Egyptian mummy, a Mexican piñata or recreate Chinese paper lanterns.
Learning a foreign language is another way to teach your kids about different cultures. Try teaching them the basics such as "Hello" and "How are you?" in Spanish, French or any other foreign language that interests everyone in your family. Learning about different cultures is also a great bonding experience.
7. Properly resolve conflicts.
When your child comes to you for help, never show judgment. They need to see that you respect and value their opinions on complex matters. That way, they will be more open to your opinions and advice when it's needed.
If you have to discipline your child, do so in a caring but firm manner.
You can get them to understand why their behavior is unacceptable without shaming or humiliating them. An estimated three to seven percent of children and adults show signs of aggression which can be reduced with the proper guidance and support.
Remember that they are likely going through many changes: body changes, changing friendships, and hormone changes. Educate them on why aggression is never the answer when solving anything. This will significantly benefit them later in life. They will display discipline and have common sense when assessing a problem.
8. Never interrupt conversations.
It is rude for a child or anyone really to interrupt you while you're speaking. Teach them to place their hand on your arm and wait for you to finish speaking if they need your attention. It will let them know you will direct your attention to them momentarily, and you aren't ignoring them.
If they are still talking over you, say, "I'll be with you in a minute once I'm done speaking." If the interruptions continue, keep practicing! Kids will learn through repetition.
Your child will appreciate this when they get older and have mastered the art of proper conversation etiquette.
9. Praise good behaviors.
Always give your child credit where credit is due. If they say "please" to get their sibling to stop teasing them, provide them with a pat on the back for the pleasant manners. It will encourage more polite actions from your child.
Kids love attention, and knowing that you are proud of them is an excellent way to end a conversation in a positive light. You don't need to buy material possessions every time they display a superb manner. Your validation means way more.
10. Always give them your full attention.
It can be hard sometimes if you're wrapped up in work or watching your favorite tv show. When your child needs you, though, you need to give them your full attention. It may mean pausing your show, but they are way more important than seeing what happens at the next episode.
When you put down your distractions and focus on them, you are teaching your child to respectfully listen, which will come in handy when you need their attention. They won't be so quick to ignore you for their cellphone. You're acknowledging them makes them feel like they are valued and respected.
11. Give them options, not commands.
Your child lives in your house, do not create a hostile environment. They need to know they have choices or feel they have no power and will lose respect for you. Surely you don't want your child to start ignoring you, do you? So when he asks if he can go outside and play or watch TV, try saying, "sure! You can go outside to play or inside to watch TV."
Never force them to do things they don't want to do. If they don't want to apologize for a mistake they made, don't force them. It will cause more harm than good. If they're not ready to be remorseful, you need to be patient. The main point of an apology is to repair the mistake that was made and express sincerity. If your child is forced to apologize when they aren't ready, they will harbor fake remorse.
They will view apologizing as a nice thing to do instead of the right thing to do. When a transgression takes place with your child, listen entirely to their side of the story. Let them express their feelings and help guide them to resolve the issue but never force it.
Forcing an apology can make your child feel as if their emotions and feelings are not valid. You must allow them to express their side of the story, even if it is different from what you believe took place. This way, they will be able to trust that you will listen carefully and guide them through any wrongdoing they might have committed respectfully.
12. Embrace their curiosity.
A child will go through phases asking personal questions like, "Where do babies come from?" or "Why is the sky blue?" or even "Where does water come from?." Embrace this curiosity, even if it seems silly to you or makes you uncomfortable. Take their curiosity as a chance to teach and learn with them even on different topics and subjects they are interested in.
You may not want to watch a documentary on where babies come from with them, but indeed, a documentary on where water comes from and how it gets filtered for drinking water won't hurt.
You may not want to talk about sex with them, but you can surely find another way to get your point across without blurring the lines between private and public. They are going to have questions that may seem silly or weird. They are kids, after all! But by embracing their curiosity, you're allowing yourself time to form a more powerful bond.
Showing interest in what interests them is critical to help ensure they don't develop a narcissistic personality. It can be treacherous for your child to hold one-sided conversations as an adult and could likely run off many potential friends because they are only interested in themselves.
13. Never force affection.
Cool your jets with the "give grandma a kiss" or "come give me a hug." Firstly, children could be very uncomfortable and feel like they don't control their bodies or actions. It also teaches them that consent doesn't matter if they're going to get forced. Instead, try teaching them when family comes over to wave or give a high-five or even come up with their preferred method of showing affection. Remind them that the choice is theirs, and theirs only.
This also applies to verbal affection. Some parents want their children to verbalize affection for them, which could result in several problems later on. By teaching your child to say it forcibly, some may never learn how to express themselves or know when the time is right.
14. Make them aware of boundaries.
Kids need discipline, and it can get taught without being cruel or demeaning. Learning how to respect boundaries is an excellent way to start. Make sure your child knows that they are loved and treasured, but don't hurt others (emotionally or physically).
This will help raise children who have empathy and never feel like they should lash out at someone else because of the hurtful things said or done.
Help them understand how their tantrum hurts you and others around them. It's ok to hold them accountable. They're only human, after all, and mistakes will get made from time to time. Educate them on the importance of expressing themselves respectfully and positively.
To help stop a tantrum, calmly walk your child away from the situation. If they're too young to understand, remove them from the earshot of others if possible and let them know that you are proud of their self-control. It's not easy for children to keep themselves calm, especially when they feel hurt or angry. It's your job as a parent to teach them how to respond to those emotions.
15. Teach them good sportsmanship.
It's a good idea to teach children to feel proud of their successes and try again if they fail. Please encourage them to accept other people's achievements, too. They should always be more concerned over being a good teammate versus being concerned with winning a game. Keep in mind that a sport is supposed to be about having fun while staying healthy and active.
Always encourage them to take the focus on the thrill of winning. Be sure to hold them accountable when they display bad sportsmanship qualities as well. Your child could ruin a chance at making new friends because they were mean during a game or bullying someone over their lack of skills.
Make them realize that winning is exhilarating and losing isn't the end of the world. Always lead by example and never protect your child from experiencing defeat in a game or with their actions. If they aren't allowed to lose, they won't learn how to win.
Raising a respectful kid won't happen overnight. It will take time and effort to teach them that both their words and actions hold power. It's up to them if they want to use them for good.
Share these practices with your spouse or a friend who may be expecting.