When it comes to teaching social skills for kids, the word respect can conjure all kinds of associations with behavior—like listening, following rules, and paying attention. But when we ask, “What is respect for kids?” we also want to consider how respect can help foster strong character, healthy relationships, good manners, and encourage kindness.
As a parent, your role in modeling and teaching respect to your children can help them to understand others and themselves better. Showing respect to your children and helping them set healthy boundaries can also help them understand the concept and why it’s so important to receive and return from others.
Wondering how to talk about respect with your little ones? In this short guide, we’ll explore how you can talk about respect and about modeling respect to set positive examples every day.
How Can Parents Explain Respect to Their Kids?
The concept of respect can sometimes be difficult for young kids to understand—after all, it’s an abstract word with many nuances. However, there are a few ways that you can help them grasp the concept a little more easily.
Here are a few ways you can start teaching children respect:1
- Talk about how being respected by someone feels. When someone respects you, you might feel happy or glad. You know that they are treating you with kindness and care.
- Talk about how someone else might feel when you respect them. Give examples of what respect might look like for kids—like listening to someone when they say “no,” or thinking about their feelings in a respectful way before you act.
- You can also talk about how you or someone else might feel when you don’t show them respect. For example, you might feel sad, disappointed, or upset. You might feel that they aren’t treating you with kindness and care.
- Use storybooks and imaginary situations to help you give examples of what respect looks and feels like. Demonstrate the difference between what happens when you use kind words and do good deeds vs. portraying disrespectful behavior. When you read a story together, talk about who is being respectful and who is not. Ask your child how the other characters might feel or how your child might feel in the same situation.
Once you have introduced the idea of respect, you can support the concept when you talk about everyday situations. Talking through these situations with respect in mind can help your child learn how to make the right choices for themselves and their relationships with others.
How Can Parents Teach Kids Respect?
Teaching your kids the definition of respect is one thing. However, as many parents know, sometimes the best way to help them understand a concept is to show them what it looks like. The same approach goes for when you’re teaching emotions, emotion language, and how to notice emotions to your children.
To provide examples of what respect looks and feels like in everyday life, we recommend the following strategies:2
- Model respect in your own interactions – The most important action you can take to teach your kids respect is to be a positive role model. The concept of show, don’t tell is especially relevant here. If you show your kids how to treat others respectfully through your own actions, they’ll perceive your actions as the right way to behave. Likewise, treating your children with respect can model how they should expect to be treated by others.
- Use plenty of examples – Giving examples to observe and follow can also help to make the idea of respect more concrete. Use examples that feel relevant to your child’s current life. For instance, perhaps they want to play with a toy, but another child is using it. You can ask your child how they’d feel if someone took the toy away from them. Then ask how they’d feel if another child waited for them to finish playing with the toy first.
- Choose age-appropriate language – The best way to explain respect will vary depending on your child’s age and level of emotional maturity. The toy example discussed above is perfect for small kids. On the other hand, slightly older children might need a more complex example that demonstrates something they can relate to more readily.
- Make kindness the focus – Above all, the focus of your lessons on respect should center around kindness.3 Kindness is the result of showing respect for others. You can talk to your child about how it feels to receive kindness. They can connect this feeling with how their actions impact others and how others treat them.
- Set and respect boundaries – Finally, teaching your child about respect also involves teaching them about boundaries. Even young children can learn how to set boundaries about their bodies, emotions, and more. You can help them to understand this complex idea by respecting their boundaries and allowing your little one to have a voice in decision-making.
Why Is it Important to Teach Kids Respect?
Even if your child is fairly young, it’s never too early to start talking about respect and showing your child examples of respect in real life. Respect can have a big impact in several ways:2
- The concept of respect can help kids to understand what healthy relationships look like and set boundaries for how they want to be treated by others.
- Demonstrating respect for other people, cultures, beliefs, and groups can teach kids to be kind to others who might be different from themselves.
- Kindness and respect are intertwined. The earlier you teach your child these concepts, the more likely they may be to internalize respectful behaviors and practice them as they grow.
Help Your Little One Learn Respect with Slumberkins
By talking about respect and modeling examples of the concept for your child, you can help them set a foundation for happy relationships and interactions. But teaching respect can also go a long way toward helping your child understand how to treat themselves.
Slumberkins offers a wide range of early childhood social emotional learning toys and social emotional learning books to help make that connection your child needs. Our adorable, snuggly stuffed animal collection will be beloved by your little ones—and they can help children learn important lessons about respectful behavior.
Explore our collection to learn how Slumberkins can support confidence and kindness every day.
- Jacobson, Rae. "Teaching Kids About Boundaries." Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/teaching-kids-boundaries-empathy/
- "Teaching Children Respect for Themselves and Others." National Physicians Center. https://www.physicianscenter.org/parents/parenting-resources/articles/teaching-children-respect-themselves-and-others/
- "Kindness: How a Simple Act Can Make a Big Difference." Healthy Children. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Building-Resilience/Pages/Kindness-Can-Make-a-Big-Difference.aspx