Niccolo Machiavelli was the originator of the belief "it is better to be feared than to be loved, if you can't have both." This same man thought immoral behavior, such as dishonesty and killing innocents, were normal and effective in politics. Given his background, the truth of this quote should be seriously called into question. In truth, the question of whether or not your children deserve your respect should be a no-brainer: yes, they should.
The only way to argue they do not deserve respect is if love is not a factor, but in Psychology Today Dr. Peter Gray suggests it is useful to "compare and contrast parent-child relationships with husband-wife relationships." He continues by saying "love without respect is dangerous; it can crush the other person, sometimes literally." Professors Richard B. Felson and Mary A. Zielinski wrote a journal article titled, "Children's Self-Esteem and Parental Support." Their findings were the amount of support given to a child by a parent translated into higher feelings of self-esteem or confidence. Frederick Douglass said, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." If children are our future then doesn't it make sense to raise strong and confident boys and girls?
In education, a teacher who wants respect must give it. Teachers who simply expect respect based on their age or knowledge will be quickly disappointed. Children are some of the best detectors of insincerity. The Golden Rule is an excellent guideline: Treat others as you would want to be treated. How many people swear they will never act as their parents did with them only to give in to preprogrammed responses. The New York Times reports the sad truth of the cyclical nature of abused-to-abuser. Giving no respect or love to a child will often doom them to do the same to their children and the cycle continues.
Dr. John Rosemond is a well-known psychologist who has worked with children and families for many years. He has authored 14 books on parenting and is a nationally syndicated columnist on family issues. He was asked by a reader of the Hartford Courant if he didn't agree that "children should respect adults no matter what?" Dr. Rosemond responded by explaining "an adult earns the respect of children by discharging the responsibilities of his or her "office" in a fashion that causes children to want to obey." Effective leadership or parenting causes the child to give respect willingly and with this respect comes obedience and love.
To paraphrase the cliché, "respect is a two-way street." Author William Paul Young says it well: "Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect." If parents give love and respect to their children they will receive both back in higher measures than if that respect is expected from them. Because they are their parents' children, children are deserving of love, attention, and, yes, respect.
Don't give them the 3rd degree
Too many questions make the child feel trapped or untrusted. Try just asking how their day was in a general sense. If there is a doubt as to the answer then follow up with making sure things are okay. A gentler approach will cause trust to begin.
Don't give short answers to questions
In education, teachers are taught to ask follow up questions. Ask the child why they asked the question and what they think the answer should be.
Let your child own his/her own body
Don't fix their hair or spit-shine their face. This is an invasion of personal space. As children get older, this might need to be negotiated. Is a haircut really worth ruining a relationship over? Decide first before making ultimatums.
Let your child speak for themselves
Too often parents want to answer for their child or tell the story of a child's accomplishment instead of letting them speak for themselves. Allowing them to do their own talking helps foster confidence in themselves and a knowledge that the parent trusts them to do their own speaking.
Let them be ready when they're ready
This removes the pressure that leads to power struggles between parents and children. This goes from potty-training to speaking in public to participation in extra-curricular activities. Too much stress is put on the child to do something for the benefit of the parent more than the child.
By using these suggestions and giving love and respect to children, a safer, brighter, and happier future will come to pass. In 423 B.C., Aristophanes wrote "children should be seen and not heard" as very sarcastic way to show what not to do in raising a child. This famous quote has been used out of context for a long time. Using the more common sense approach of love and nurturing a child, parents will gain the greatest compliment they can receive: their children will grow up wanting to be like them.