How to Teach Your Child Respect

“What you want, Baby I got it
What you need, you know I got it
All I’m askin’ is for a little RESPECT when you come home, yea, Baby”
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Find out what it means to me!” 
And so the story (or song) goes.
Who would have thought that my faves, Otis and Aretha were chanting the mantra that all parents chant to their children at one time or another?
Clearly, these prescient entertainers were one-up on all of us when they sang their very parent-focused lyrics way back when.
What is respect, anyway?

Well, according to the  Merriam Webster dictionary, “respect” is defined as the following:
1: a relation or reference to a particular thing or situation <remarks having respect to an earlier plan>
2: an act of giving particular attention : consideration
3: high or special regard : esteem b : the quality or state of being esteemed c plural : expressions of high or special regard or deference <paid our respects>
4: particular, detail <a good plan in some respects>
in respect of

chiefly British : with respect to : concerning
in respect to

with respect to : concerning
with respect to

with reference to : in relation to
So, that being the case, do I get respect? Well, not so much. Okay, sometimes, but not as much as I’d like. Such is the lot in life of your typical mom or dad.

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Sometimes the mere drudgery is enough to make me want to jump off the nearest roof. Laundry is SO uncool.
Rappers demand respect but somehow I don’t think they’re asking for the same type that I require. They want respect for their rhymes. I want support for my scrubbing. They want emulation for their MC-ing; I want deference for toilet-related duties. In addition:
I want respect for folding the laundry.
I want respect for cleaning up the messes that no one admits to making.
I want respect for changing the toilet paper roll for the umpteenth time this week.
Yet, as much as I want it, it doesn’t happen. I can’t blame my kids – they’re…well…kids, after all. They respect me as much as they can in their own capacity and at the same time expect me to do their bidding, when they want it, pronto. And being a mom, I guess I have to do it, to some degree. Don’t I?
Well, perhaps not.
For as much as there is, to some degree, a proscribed list of parenting duties that we are bound by, there is also room for interpretation or, for some of us subversives, downright resistance to the expectations of being a mother or father. Some of us are at the point of no return. We want respect and we want it now.
Someone once said that “the little things mean a lot.” Boy, did they hit the nail on the head. It’s not the fact that you’ve changed your fourth poopy diaper within the hour, or the fact that you are on your fifth load of laundry for the day. Because we know that, hey – these are part and parcel of being a parent, right? It’s the fact that despite your best efforts, your time and the energy expended, there is what appears to be very little or no appreciation for what you’ve endured. Now, two-year-olds really can’t conceptualize appreciation that well, so you gotta cut them some slack. Older children can, but often don’t think of it, through no fault of their own. Ironically, that’s our job as parents – to teach them to be appreciative and respectful of us and the things that we do for them while being resentful that we are getting no respect for the things that we do for them.

So how does a parent manage to teach their children to be more respectful and appreciative? I’ve pondered this somewhat and this is what I’ve come up with:

1. Let them know that there is a difference between respect and expect, explain the differences and underscore the fact that they should not have expectations for things or events without showing respect for their parents first.

2. Explain that respect is one of those things that is mutual, and that the more one is respectful, the more respect one will receive. An all-around great deal, in my opinion.

3. Everyone deserves respect, at least from the outset. Give them the benefit of the doubt, assume that they’re worthy of respect and act accordingly. If they prove you wrong, then reevaluate your strategy.

Kids can be respectful and in turn respected. They just need to be taught.

How do you teach your kids respect? What are your tips for showing them how to earn and show respect?

 Aretha Franklin – Respect

I had to add Otis Redding who did, after all write the song:


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