What respect means to kids

Published On: March 17, 2018 01:45 AM NPT By: Usha Pokharel

Parents should try their best to help their children figure out what is special about them that demands self-respect.
Respect. Just the word evokes reverence in my mind.  I know some of you are thinking, ‘why respect of all the topics?  Don’t you have something else to talk about’? Let me put this aside, for no reason at all today I remembered a 1967-hit song by Aretha Franklin, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”, and somewhere along the song the singer says, “Find out what it means to me” and that got me going. 

For me the word respect reverberates a positive feeling of appreciation and admiration for a person.  Respecting is an essential trait of civilization. We all remember our efforts at teaching our children to give respect from the beginning of an early age.  We also know that our efforts to teach respect at some point starts to become an embarrassment for our children and they gradually shy away in showing their respect to others. So where did we go wrong? Is it perhaps we did not successfully drill in the importance of the word?  Or are we not comfortable showing respect ourselves? Yes, these are some uncomfortable questions and no I am not into blaming anyone.

I understand that we have all as parents tried our best to make it clear to our children that respect is both given and received.  It is earned and built over time, but can be lost with just one stupid act.

I am sure there is someone you respect too and you have tried to present yourself as an example for your children to look up to. They have seen you respect people who have more experience and are more accomplished. Let me tell you I have seen parents respecting their children to teach them to respect others.  I have seen Bengalis in Kolkata address their daughters as ‘Maa’ and sons as ‘Baba’.  This is an effort to teach children that everyone is special and you are no exception. They touch children’s feet and in return the children touch their parents’ feet with reverence.

Role of parents 
Parents should try their best to help their children figure out what is special about them that demands self-respect.  This effort by the children is reason enough to respect oneself.  I know you are saying, ‘I have heard of respecting others, but what about respecting oneself? You must be crazy!’ 

Self-respect is very important. I am sure you understand the importance of self-respect. Self-respect, as you know, is the way you feel about yourself and that has an impact on how you interact and treat others. You might be thinking, ‘what’s so difficult about respecting myself? It’s simple’. Simple it may be, but many people do not give themselves enough respect. If you don’t respect yourself, others tend not to respect you either. Our first training in learning to respect elders starts at home.

I am sure many of you still remember your parents saying, ‘nani/babu, jee gara’ or Namaste gara’ to the elders. Teach your children not to be embarrassed while raising hands to greet others. I remember, as students our teachers demanded that we learn to respect others. That had a very good impact on us. Now respect comes naturally to us and we do not get ashamed or embarrassed to respect others.  Unfortunately, with the elapse of time, people have grown and somewhere along the years they have almost forgotten about respect.  Now that I am talking about it, suddenly you remember and are now thinking, ‘is it too late?’ No it’s not too late.  

To start with, teach your children to know themselves better. The more they understand about themselves, the more they will see how unique they really are, and the more they will appreciate and respect themselves. Teach them to focus on their strengths, positive qualities and be confident. Your instructions should be such that when they grow up they will fondly remember your instruction and show no qualms at respecting elders. 
Children need to understand that when they treat others with respect, they would get love and respect. While you are at it, consider carefully the company you keep and the way you speak. 

Encourage your children to be around people with positive qualities, who respect themselves and others. Guide them to be careful while choosing friends. Let them understand that quality is more important than quantity. I am sure you have taught your children what they are not supposed be. 

Make sure to constantly remind them that they are special and that people will respect them for who they are.  The main duty of parents is to constantly remind them that their main objective should be to improve themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and in  return they earn the respect. Cultivate a habit in your children of thanking every time they get an opportunity. ‘Thank you’ is a powerful word that helps earn respect.  Unfortunately with the passage of time ‘respect’ is gradually losing its importance.  Even adults seem to be shying away from respecting others. 

Teaching respect 
Parents need to keep in mind to constantly remind their children that lack of self-respect can prevent them from fulfilling their potential and their dream in future. Also make sure that they understand that self-respect is closely related to self-confidence, but respect is more about their action, whereas, confidence is all about how they feel. Furthermore, children need to understand that a person with self-respect doesn’t allow others to treat them badly, and would rather not associate with someone who is disrespectful. They need to understand that if their friends bring them down or disrespect them in any way, it may be time to re-evaluate their friendship. Once your children learn to do that, they’ll feel their sense of self-respect go up one notch. 

Finally, parents need to understand respect as a form of behavior and participation that is especially important in childhood as it serves as a basis of how your children conduct in a community. The value of respect is taught to children while they are young because children participating in and learning about their community is an important aspect of the culture. 

Let children safely get engaged in activities like cooking, cleaning , taking care of brothers and sisters, and other household chores under supervision. The whole process teaches children to learn to view these activities with respect. Respecting all jobs and people who perform them is something a child should learn while they are growing up. You can be a role model for your children. Start by thanking your service providers. Try it, you might like it. Let your children understand that saying, ‘Thank you’ is good.  Don’t you think so, parents? 

Pokharel is an educationist and author of several children’s books usha@pokharel.net.

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