The Value of Respect

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

One of the most important things you can teach your child is respect.  The best way to teach respect is to show respect.  When a child experiences respect, they know what it feels like and begins to understand how important it is.

The value of self-respect may be something we take for granted.   We may discover how very important it is when our self-respect is threatened, or we lose it and have to work to regain it, or struggle to develop or maintain it in a very difficult environment.  Some people find that finally being able to respect themselves is what matters most by kicking a disgusting habit, or defending something that they value.  It is part of everyday wisdom that respect and self-respect are deeply connected.  It is difficult, if not impossible to respect others if we don’t respect ourselves and to respect ourselves if others don’t respect us.  

Respect is an attitude.  If children don’t have respect for peers, authority, or themselves, it is almost impossible for them to succeed.

Lead by example.  For children, it’s easier to fully embrace an idea if they see someone else utilizing that idea positively.  If you respect the people around you and children see that, it will inspire them.  It gives them actual examples of a respectful give-and-take that happens between people.

Live by the Golden Rule.  Treat others the way you want to be treated. When communicating with each other, parents and teens need to avoid signs of disrespect like yelling, using a nasty tone of voice and demonstrating defensive body language.

Listening is vital.   Parents and children need to be free to share their thoughts and feelings and feel like they’re being heard.  To disagree is acceptable; to demean is not.   Teens need their space.  Privacy is important to teens.  Parents should respect their teen’s privacy, but they do have the authority to check their child’s cell phone, computer or room if they think their teen is in danger or is involved in immoral, illegal or dangerous activities.  Parents must look out for the well being of their child or children at all times, that is their responsibility.

Learning self-respect is guided by how we see ourselves.  The people in our lives act as a mirror in this process.  When people who are important to us give us attention and encouragement, we see positive images of ourselves.  At other times, our interactions with others may make us feel unattractive, incompetent, or even invisible.  Young children build their sense of self-respect from their interactions with others.  When they are made to feel special and valued, children grow to respect themselves.  A positive sense of one’s self allows the maturing child to respect others.

Self-respect is at the heart of respecting others. When you can identify and appreciate your strengths and accept your vulnerabilities, it’s easier to truly respect the value in others.

For additional information on 4-H Life Skills, contact Shirley Rush at 875-2162 or email shirley_rush@ncsu.edu.