Parenting Resources

Teaching Children Respect for Themselves and Others


As never before, a child indulgent culture permeates our society and threatens to produce a generation of narcissists.

If this phenomenon were merely an annoyance, most of us would accept it. However, the self-centered and disrespectful behaviors of youth are often symptomatic of how entitled many have come to feel. Adults are increasingly seen as older people with more means for supplying a child’s needs. Unfortunately, this is not an overstatement. Most of us have experienced the downside of children who have never learned to show respect.

But respect doesn’t happen by osmosis; many parents have unconsciously taught and/or allowed disrespectful behaviors to grow and become the “norm” in their homes.

Reasons range from completely child-centered parenting philosophies to hands-off parents who have little or no time to teach or model respectful behaviors. A recent article demonstrates one aspect of child-centered parenting. Please note: there are several aspects of RIE parenting guidelines with which we agree – but in our minds, asking permission to diaper an infant carries the concept of treating children with respect too far. 

Teaching respect can reap benefits for both parents and child.

  • Parents benefit as they can take their children out in public without worrying about misbehavior, so parents are more relaxed and can ultimately enjoy their children more.
  • Children benefit as respect is inherent in the concept of self-control and discipline, and how a child views her parents will essentially determine how that child will later view her school teacher, her boss, and law enforcement.

Studies show lack of discipline, direction and control creates insecurity in both young and older children.

Their malleable, impressionable psyches are seeking security in the authority figures closest to them, the parents. When that control is missing, children will take advantage of parents and situations and seek to exert their own power, to the detriment of the family and child.

For example, a recent study by Mary Lauren Neel demonstrated the toddlers with permissive parents were twice as likely to manifest internalizing (anxiety) and externalizing problems (disruptive behaviors).

Some key points to remember

  • Remember your child is not your friend. Whether he likes or dislikes you for the moment is unimportant. Your job is to teach him to respect you and others in order to function in the real world.
  • Catch disrespect early and intervene with age appropriate consequences like time out. Saying things like “we don’t talk that way in this family” helps your child think about family values and how they are expected to treat others.
  • Be in alignment with your spouse. Pay close attention to how each of you addresses disrespect. Children can be masterful at pitting one parent against the other when they aren’t in agreement.
  • Teach your child the basics of social interaction. “Please”, “thank you”, “excuse me”, and, “Can I help you?” are some essential foundational elements for displaying good manners. Be a good role model and use these polite phrases when speaking to your child and to others.
  • Be respectful when you correct your child. Yelling or getting upset can escalate the behavior, and teaches your child that this is an appropriate way to respond. Calmly explain what is wrong and how your child can improve.

For information on helping children of different ages develop respect for themselves, their parents and for other people in general, please visit our Parenting Resources page or click below.