This is the first of 3 posts on how parents can teach respect.
“The more our children see love, forgiveness, humour, creativity, good money sense, tidiness, or RESPECT in our lives, the more likely they are to pick it up. We need to give it to them, model it in our lives and in this way we give them a better idea of what RESPECT is.”
CHARLOTTE MASON – an English educationalist of the 19th – 20th century.
We all have memories of someone demanding something of us but failing to practice it themselves – the boss who demanded punctuality but was regularly late and left early, or the teacher who stressed the need for clear handwriting but wrote in hieroglyphics… “Actions speak louder than words”.
And so it is for us as parents. If we want our children to respect us and others, then we must first model what respect is, by respecting our children.
Here are three areas we can check ourselves on, to see how we are doing in being examples of respect.
1. HOW WE COMMUNICATE.
(a) Do you listen to your child when they talk to you? Do you look at them? Do you shift your thoughts and tune fully in to the words being said to you? Does your body language and face express connection with them?
(b) Do you interrupt your child when they are speaking? Do you feel you need to grab the moment their attention is turned to you, and remind them of something or give them some instruction? Have you decided that what they are saying is of lesser importance than what you want to say? Are you irritated that they are speaking and interrupting your moment/thoughts/what you were involved in?
© Do you ‘talk down’ to your child? Do you ‘baby’ them or speak to them as though they are younger than they really are? Do you only speak about ‘kiddy’ stuff with them, believing their mind couldn’t handle anything ‘adult’? Or do you talk about ‘adult’ stuff but reduce it down to an insipid level – bite-sized, ready for consumption?
(d) Do you use words and tones of voice that ‘speak’ respect to your child? Does your voice emotion have a hint of boredom, routine or mechanical repetition? Are you caring and careful in the words you select to speak to your child?
These simple behaviours repeatedly called on daily, are the means of displaying how a person is meant to communicate with people. In the past this style of respect was thought of as a common decency that all people were to display.
2. ALLOWING THEM TO CHOOSE AND MAKE DECISIONS.
Life for children is learning, often learning through making mistakes, rethinking and trying again, more mistakes and eventually improving in their decision making skills. (We could remove “children” in the last sentence and put in our own name – we’re still learning) But it only happens with lots of practice, practice to choose and make decisions in the little everyday things. What areas are you happy to let your child have choice in? Did you let them choose what clothes or shoes they wore today? What toys they get out to play with? How to arrange their room? What colours to paint their walls? When to start on their homework? Areas of choice must be development and age relevant. When parents give such opportunities they show they respect the child believing they are capable of making these choices.
3. GIVING KIDS TIME AND SPACE TO THINK, IMAGINE AND DREAM.
This is time where either kids are alone or we are very much in the background. Sometimes these moments just happen, other times they need to be found. Some children are natural day-dreamers moving from one dreamy experience to the next. But for others, particularly if they are screen dependent, the idea of ‘dreaming’, is foreign. These children need help to find the value of dreaming.
- a camping holiday with only the basics
- a trip to the beach with only simple play things – even in winter
- a long bush walk with some challenges
- a long train, bus, car trip can also become such a time if the technology is
Quietness is not essential, but conditions must allow the child to be able to sustain their own thoughts with out interruptions.
- it can be as simple as providing time to play in the bath
- swing on the swing
- watch the rain out the window
- listening to the noise birds make gathering at sunset
These experiences develop so many undetectable aspects of thought, self control, sustained concentration, comfort in being alone, and the learning of relaxation.
By encouraging your child to spend time in these ways – thinking, imagining, dreaming, you show them respect because you’re viewing them as a person, understanding they need time to be left alone and develop.
If we generously show respect to our children in these and other ways, our investment gives them a great base to take off from and become people who are respectful and respected.
Charlotte Mason also wrote –
“If we respect our children and bring them up treating them as a person they will have been loved, talked with, listened to, read to and they will have confidence, be enthusiastic, out-going and creative.” – and I also add, be respectful.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ if your thoughts were grabbed by any point above, go back and read it again, then decide how you want to action it this week with your kids.