A few weeks ago, we talked about pride. We discussed how it could be a good thing when it focuses on acknowledging your own dignity. This week, we are discussing respect, which means we acknowledge the dignity of other people.
Recognizing that all humans have value and are worthy of respect means that you treat others the way you would want to be treated, regardless of differences between the two of you. This golden rule is taught to us when we are very young, but just because it is preached does not mean it is always practiced. While adults can be held accountable for their own actions, children are in the process of learning. So how do we raise young people to have respect for not just their parents and teachers, but all people?
Demonstrating To Your Child
When we as adults talk about demonstrating respect, it can be done two ways. The first is the obvious one. Your child needs to see you demonstrate respect to other people. Children are sponges. They absorb whatever is around them, even if you didn't mean for them to do so. Let's say you have a neighbor next door that is a bit of a nuisance. You complain about them in front of your son or daughter, maybe even causally call them a name or say how stupid they are. You may not feel like you're teaching your child anything in that moment, but you are. You are putting on a demonstration and you are showing that is OK to talk down about other people. It is OK to use rude names and negative language to talk about another human being.
But what if your neighbor really is a nuisance? Well, you can flip the script and use this opportunity to demonstrate respect. Remember, respect doesn't mean loving every single person you encounter. It means treating them with respect and dignity. So be respectful and if your neighbor is giving you a problem, work out your issues with words and be willing to show grace. This demonstration of proper respect will have just as much of an impact on your child as your negative words would. And not only are you teaching your child how to act, but you are acting in a positive way yourself.
Respecting Your Child
But I said there were two ways to demonstrate respect. Not only must you demonstrate respect to others, but you must also show respect to your child.
This may seem odd at first. As a parent, we "outrank" our child, or as a teacher, we are in a position of authority above our students. But respect just means that we show each other dignity. Think of it this way: When you speak to a young person, do you speak to them the same way you would speak to a colleague at work? What I mean is that you shouldn't be condescending to another adult, so we shouldn't use that type of language for our children.
Now don't get me wrong. You absolutely should discipline your child. That's an important part of teaching right from wrong. But how you discipline is crucial. This may mean remaining calm and not raising your voice. It could also mean not embarrassing them in front of their siblings or friends. Respect is about treating others with dignity. If you do this for your child, they will being to feel more confident and proud (in a good way). And they will also understand the golden rule. They will slowly learn what it is like to have positive, respectful relationships, and so they will do that for other people as well.
"I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me … All I ask is that you respect me as a human being." - Jackie Robinson
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About the Author
Master Matthew Eyler is a 5th degree black belt in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do and a New York State certified general and special education teacher. He has over 20 years experience practicing self-defense and teaching students of all ages and abilities.