Children learn how to apply the 3Rs – Respect, Responsibility, and Rights at school by practicing and experiencing them at home. For that reason, parents must insist everyone in the family respect each other’s privacy, views, and self-image.
Show respect for family member’s privacy by not prying or snooping into their special corners in a drawer or closet. Allow no one to pry into another’s private things or thoughts. Maintain a strict policy of not opening someone else’s mail. Let them open it and decide if it is to be shared. In return they must respect your privacy and other’s privacy at school.
Respect for another’s views is a difficult concept to instill in children; especially with the atmosphere of meanness and violent disagreements we have over politics, religions, sports, and choices people make. By no means am I stating we must agree with everything. Instead, we all need to learn how to express our views and yet respect the dignity, and self worth, of anyone who might dare to disagree with us.
Let it be okay for a child to disagree with a parent or sibling at home. However, the difference must be expressed with an “inside voice” and a respectful attitude. No name calling, no disparaging remarks about the intelligence, or character, of the other person. This reminds me of the time I wanted to get my three kids to quit calling one another “idiot.” So I told them to not use that word in our house, and they stopped. However, a week later, I heard them calling each other “idget.” Right off, I knew I had failed to instill respect because they obeyed me to the letter of the law, but they had found a way around my edict. I had to go back to the drawing board and work on attitudes rather than specific behavior. And that is what it all comes down to – have an attitude of mutual respect in your home. Remind one and all, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
One of the most liberating experiences I had as a parent came when it dawned on me that I needed to let our children disagree with me. With that, I told them they could disagree with me on any subject, but they must do so with an attitude of respect. In turn I would respect their views. I didn’t always agree with them, but they at least had their views heard, and at times, they changed my mind. 🙂
One more suggestion, respect the self image of your child. PLEASE refrain from put downs (which is a form of bullying). Imagine children starting out the day with a placard around their neck with their names on them. Now if they had to tear a piece of their placard off for every snide remark, sigh of disgust, or negative word parents throw at them in anger before they even leave for school, would there be much left of their placards, or would they just have pieces of string dangling around their necks?
At the same time, be honest in your admiration of your children. Don’t exaggerate their self image into a perfection they can’t live up to.
Disclaimer: Remember we are talking about instilling these attributes in young children. If there are older children in a family who have not developed this sense of respect from childhood, it will be difficult (but not impossible) to reap the preferred attitudes and behaviors.