3 Tips to Help Teach Your Kids Respect and Responsibility

Gopala Amir-Yaffe
3 Tips to Help Teach Your Kids Respect and Responsibility

We all know that it is not easy to be a grownup, and especially it is not easy to be a parent, but did you ever think about how challenging it is to be a kid?

Imagine every action of yours being scrutinized, always being told what to do and what not to do, needing to ask permission for everything, being rushed to stop playing and get into the car or off to bed. Living in the same way as a grown up would be some kind of a very exotic torture.

So how can we ease the suffering of these poor children? Of course, I’m half joking.

Most of us tend to do almost everything for our kids; we shop and cook for them, drive them around, read them stories, buy them toys—so much so that we think there’s literally nothing for them to worry about. 

But kids do worry. They worry about pleasing their parents and teachers, about not fitting in, about not being good enough, about making friends, about how they look, and so on. Lots of parents’ worries are transferred to the children that some kids even worry about money.

I think that there are a few things that we guardians, parents, or teachers can do to make life easier for our little ones while at the same time teaching them respect and responsibility. Below are some food for thought and tips to consider.

1. Give Them the Whats and the Whys

Maybe instead of telling them what to do, we should also explain why.

It is so important to know why we do things, and here’s one of the reasons for this: obedience is not a great quality on its own. Obedience is comfortable for grownups and often keeps the child safe, but understanding is a much better quality. This is why explaining the why of things is so important.

Children start asking “why?” about everything when they are approximately three years old. It’s because they want to understand how things work, and I think they deserve to understand why they should do the things we ask them to.

2. Teach and Give Them “Freedom Within Safe Boundaries”

The phrase “because I said so” won’t always work with kids. Following the tip discussed above, open things for discussion, and be ready to listen and possibly accept what they are saying, or reach a compromise. Let the child’s opinion matter to you. 

Trust in the children’s wisdom to make worthwhile choices about what they want to engage with. Allow space for interest-based learning, and of course, be by their side to guide and empower them along the way.

Because of my own dislike of rules, I’ve tried to have no rules at all both at home and as a teacher. However, I soon discovered how wise the concept “freedom within safe boundaries” is. 

So when I talk about children deserving to enjoy freedom of choice, I’m not talking about absolute, unbridled freedom. Children may not be ready yet for this absolute freedom, so having some basic, reasonable boundaries makes them feel safe. Those boundaries serve as a warm hug saying, “you are safe here.”

3. Let Them Make Some Decisions and Co-create Life Together

Involve the child in some age-appropriate decision-making. Share your plan for the day or week, it should help them feel more at ease because they will know what to expect. Sharing your dreams with them makes them a part of that dream – create dreams together!

Let the child be the leader sometimes. At our home, we occasionally have “no-no days”; these are days when I’m not allowed to say no. Sounds fun? It is! And most of the time our children made responsible and considerate choices with this “no-no” superpower.

You may think it’s hard (and scary!) to say “yes” to kids for a whole day, but it’s actually easier than saying no. It’s called going with the flow, which is pretty fun, and what a lot of grownups need to do more of. ;-)

Personally, I love “no-no days”. With Delphin, my six-year-old daughter, I’ve had the privilege of being led by her to the market in the morning, then for a swim on the beach, picnic at the park (from our market purchases), and some gardening in our backyard. It was a fantastic day!

It is a whole lot more enjoyable to be a “yes” parent, while still constantly and gently guiding the children to make better and healthier decisions and requests.

Remember that Respect Goes Both Ways.

Like in any relationship, whether parent and child, or teacher and student, respect is reciprocal. 

Respect is the basis of all healthy relationships, including the ones with our children, but it needs to be mutual. It needs to work both ways, not just from the children to the parents. 

The tables always turn. When we respect children, they respect us. When we listen to children, they listen to us. When we give children some control and let them be leaders sometimes, they will happily let us lead too.

Try it out, it just might work!

Image credit: Gordon Ogden