Originally posted on Medium

As we continue our exploration of what it means to be a digital citizen, the next value we want to highlight is Respect.

Seems simple enough. We tell our children to respect their elders, their teachers. Perhaps we tell them to respect nature and the animals in it. But are we just telling them? Or are we teaching them?

How are we leading by example?

Children learn by observing. As parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. we are their entire universe. Our actions become how they define what is normal, what is acceptable. How to act and react.

When we show respect to our spouse, our friends, our parents, our kids, even how we express our opinions about others, we are teaching children how they should interact with others. It shows them who they should respect. Children are taught prejudice through our words and actions.

Ever wonder where your child learned a bad word? Think back to when you were stuck in traffic, late for an appointment, or spilled your coffee. A not-so-safe word may have slipped out and your child may have absorbed the word as something to say in a time of frustration. Whether it’s a show they’re watching or an adult they’re observing, the things that surround them are helping them understand how to navigate their world. Children tend to pick up on even the subtlest things and so it is important that we’re conscious of our own actions and words.

Why should we show respect to kids?

Your kids won’t always be in the right. They’ll often do or say things that make you upset — they break something, draw on the walls, use a swear word. And the last thing you think about is being respectful to them — they’ve done something wrong and therefore need to be disciplined.

In our post on wisdom, we talked about allowing kids to make some of their own decisions and to make mistakes. Respecting your child’s decisions doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t discipline them when they do something wrong. Sometimes they don’t realize what they’ve done or said is wrong and so punishing them is confusing. Showing children respect even when they’ve done something wrong, means talking with them about what they’ve done, asking if they know what they did wrong, and explaining why they’re being punished.

When you do this, it also teaches children how to interact with others who have done something wrong to them. Instead of shouting, getting angry, or violent, they’ll be more likely to calmly confront the wrongdoer and try to reach an understanding.

To be treated with respect, shouldn’t people earn it?

There’s this idea that people need to earn your respect. That your respect is so valuable that only certain people deserve it. But how are people to earn your respect? If you don’t treat people with respect, why should you expect them to respect you?

As part of our mission to awaken families with love, we believe that you should inherently treat everyone with respect. Using the metaphor “you’ll catch more flies with honey,” you’re more likely to have people respect you if you show them respect first.

We believe this extends to children. Show children respect and they will respond positively to you. You often meet people who are amazing at interacting with children. What you’ll find is that these people treat children as their equals, they treat them with a certain level of respect.

How do we teach kids to be respectful?

Along with leading by example, teaching empathy will help children learn to be respectful. Children can be very egocentric. Especially when they’re young, the world is about their needs — that’s how it must be for them to ensure their survival.

As they grow up they start to engage with other people, but often remain egocentric. It’s their toy and don’t know why they should share. This is where we have the opportunity to teach empathy — “How do you think the other kid feels when you hit them?” “If you had that done to you how would you feel?” If they’ve ever had a toy taken away from them or been hit by another child, it can help them understand how the other person feels, helping to develop that empathy.

This will grow and develop as they get older and start to be able to put themselves in the other person’s shoes, without having to have the same experience. It is from this ability to empathize with others that we can also learn to treat them with respect and kindness.

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