Parents spend a lot of energy making sure that their kids grow up to be respectful, courteous, generous, and thoughtful. These are important attributes to nurture in young children. But adults don’t always think about the ways in which children need to feel respected, and how important that is to their social and emotional development. These four important practices can help parents to develop a more respectful attitude toward their young children.
Consider your interruptions. You teach your child not to interrupt you when you’re speaking and you tell her to let you finish the task at hand before she asks for something. But how many times each day do you interrupt your child while she is speaking? Do you often interrupt her in the middle of a game to tell her to wash her hands for dinner or start getting dressed to go out? While a child’s game may not seem significant, and your family’s schedule does, giving your child a few minutes to come to a natural stopping point in her activity is a way to show her that you respect her time and her interests.
Respect your child’s space. While your child may love generous and frequent hugs from you, he may not feel so comfortable with everyone. Encourage him only to hug when he wants to hug, and encourage adults who encounter your child to ask if he would like a high-five or a wave “hello” instead of a hug.
Don’t “fix” everything. When your child approaches you with a problem that needs solving, be slow to actually fix the issue at hand. Ask her what she thinks some solutions might be, and stay with her while she tries a few different tactics. Offer suggestions if she is struggling, but encourage her to solve her problem in order to build her confidence.
Don’t compare. Remember that each child has his own strengths. Encourage your child to be the very best person that he can be, using his own strengths and his own interests. Do not compare him to siblings who may have their own specific talents. This is especially true of children with special needs. Many of these children have extraordinary abilities that can be highlighted and nurtured, but may be very different from the abilities of their peers.
Of course, we know that there will be days when your patience will wear thin, and you’ll find yourself solving your kid’s problems just to move the day along more quickly, or interrupting their activities to stay on schedule. But making efforts when you can to be more respectful of your child can allow your relationship with your child to thrive.