Activities that teach respect to children

Updated July 18, 2017

It is not uncommon to hear someone lament that "today's kids have no respect." The best way to teach your children how to be respectful is to be respectful yourself. Children learn more by how their parents act than by what their parents say. Need a few extra pointers? The following suggestions will help you instil the value of respect in your school-aged children.

Explain Why Manners Are Important

When teaching your children manners, explain why the desired behaviour is so important. For example, explain that thanking someone for a gift shows how much we appreciate the thought, time and money that went into choosing and purchasing the gift. A child needs to hear that we look people in the eye when they speak to us to show that we are respectful listeners, and we don't interrupt. Don't assume your children will naturally know these things without being told.

Household Rules

In their book "Teaching Your Children Values," co-authors Richard and Linda Eyre say, "Extend respect and then expect respect." Establish household rules, the same way teachers do in a classroom, so that your children know what behaviour is expected of them. When sibling quarrels escalate, gently warn your children that they are beginning to show each other disrespect. When you see your children showing respect for another person, compliment them.

Real Life Teachable Moments

Because children learn so much through experience, take the opportunity to have a discussion with your child when you see someone acting either very respectfully or very disrespectfully. If you encounter a disrespectful individual when your child is with you, resist the urge to respond in anger. According to the U.S. Department of Education, "our examples of good behaviour can teach our children to take the high road when other roads look tempting."

Role Play

Role playing is a wonderful way to demonstrate a concept for elementary-aged children. Role play a disagreement between two people, so your children learn that they can disagree without disrespecting. If your child has a birthday party coming up, role play with him how he will greet his guests and thank them for his gifts.

Read About Respect

When reading to your child, choose titles that demonstrate characters learning about and showing respect. Recommend such titles to your children who read independently. Some titles to explore are "Dragonfly's Tale," by Kristina Rodanas (Gr. K-2); "Through Grandpa's Eyes," by Patricia Maclachlan (Gr.3-4); and "The Cay," by Theodore Taylor (Gr. 5-6). Your public library's children's librarian or school librarian can suggest new titles to you that deal with the theme of respect.

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About the Author

Based in the Southeast, Sally Miles has been a freelance writer and editor for nearly a decade. She has written for "For Me" magazine and holds a master's degree in English from Columbia University.