How to Teach Children to Respect Other People's Things

Written by leanne canirs
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How to Teach Children to Respect Other People's Things
Teach children respect for other people's possessions. (D. Anschutz/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Children who have no respect for other people's possessions may purposely break or be careless with objects that don't belong to them. This can cause a lot of headaches for parents, especially when they're the ones held responsible for paying to replace any broken items. Teaching children respect can be frustrating at times, but as parents, it's one of the most important things we can teach our children.

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    Lead by example. Children learn both respect and disrespect from their parents. If you've ever taken away an object from your child, children learn that this is acceptable. The same is true if you borrow an item without asking, such as a computer. In order to teach children respect, you must first show it. Always ask for permission when borrowing an object that belongs to your child and be sure to thank them afterward. If you need to take away an object as punishment, be sure to be very clear on why you're removing the item and how your child can earn it back. This will show that even though the child is being punished, you still respect their property.

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    Set acceptable punishments when your child disrespects someone's personal belongings. These consequences should be task-oriented rather than time-oriented. For example, if your 6-year-old breaks his sister's favourite toy, he should have his favourite toy taken away until he writes a letter apologising for what he did. Because the punishment is task-oriented, your child learns why he's being punished and what not to do next time. This will teach him respect for another person's belongings. If the punishment is time-oriented, such as being grounded for two weeks, your child learns how to "do time," not how to show respect.

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    Require your child to pay for any items damaged due to lack of respect. For example, if your child broke his friend's computer due to carelessness, your child's entire allowance should go toward paying for a new computer. Older children can get an after-school job to speed up this process, while younger children can ask their friend's parents if there are any chores they can do. Paying for an expensive item may take weeks or even months, but will teach your child to think twice about not respecting another person's things.

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    Acknowledge both the good and the bad. If you see your child taking an item that doesn't belong to him, this should be corrected immediately. Remind your child they are required to respect people's things or else they will be punished. The same is true with acknowledging the good. If you see your child asking permission to borrow an object, be sure to praise them for being polite.

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