How to teach kids to respect others

How to teach kids to respect others

Deciphering how to teach kids to respect others can be complicated. 

Respect is all about accepting and valuing others, regardless of your differences. This could be a difference in age, opinion, race, religion or pretty much any other way you might be different from those around you.

When kids show respect for others, they are also more likely to have respect for themselves. This is a critical value for kids and teens to learn in order to value themselves as people and to help keep themselves out of trouble.

However, it’s easy to forget that kids aren’t always born with these values; it’s something that needs to be taught and reinforced from a young age.

It’s also important to remember that there is no right way to teach respect. Children are all different and therefore respond to different strategies. Below are just some of the strategies parents find useful when teaching children about respect.


Tips for teaching kids to respect others 

Stay calm

It’s so easy to meet disrespect with disrespect. When a child is acting out or specifically disobeying your requests, sometimes you just snap. However, this teaches our kids that fighting fire with fire is okay. It also demonstrates that disrespectful behaviour is okay in certain circumstances, which is definitely not a message we want to be conveying.

Staying calm can help you to determine whether the behaviour was deliberate or unintentional. Maybe they hadn’t heard you to begin with, or maybe there is another emotion at play, causing them to react in a disrespectful way.

Stay calm and work through the problem together in a rational and respectful way.


Figure out why they are being disrespectful

Regardless of whether it’s intentional or not, it’s so important to understand why your child is acting out in order to manage underlying issues. Oftentimes, disrespectful behaviour is born of anger. It might have been because they weren’t allowed to do something, because something was taken away from them or that because they’ve simply misunderstood you.

Ask them what they are feeling and why they might be feeling this way. Communicate their actions and emotions, allowing both of you to think rationally and better understand where the misbehaviour is coming from.


Demonstrate respect through respectful action

It’s so easy to say one thing and then do another. I think almost all parents are guilty of it at one time or another. But rather than telling kids what they should be doing, isn’t it more effective to show them?

When your child is acting disrespectfully, try to avoid yelling at them or demanding their respect. It is, after all, a two-way street.

Even though we might expect our children to respect us because we are their parents, this isn’t always a very fair way to act. We need to respect them as people, the same way we would with other adults.

Especially when they reach their teenage years, it’s important that we allow a certain amount of free choice and opinion while retaining solid limits and boundaries. Respect your kids by allowing them to express themselves, and respect them in the way that you discipline them.


Teach through discipline, not punishment

Discipline is all about teaching, not punishment. It’s about demonstrating what they have done is wrong and teaching them how they can correct that behaviour in the future.

If you look at some of the most effective prisons in the world, inmates are offered the chance to better themselves through work and education. Longer sentences or tougher prison experiences do little to deter reoffending, the same way punishment does little to deter your child from acting out. 

Using a different kind of analogy, consider you have made a mistake at work, and your boss yells at you before taking away a task that you really love doing. Would this encourage you to do better? Would you respect them? Or would you be angry and less likely to complete your work to your full ability?

Positive discipline, including an understanding of the behaviour and firm, unwavering boundaries, is the best way to enforce successful discipline.


Acknowledge when you have been disrespectful

Everyone lashes out from time to time, even parents. When teaching kids respect, it’s so important to own up to times where you haven’t shown respect and apologise for doing so.

Don’t think that this will undermine your authority, either. When you can accept responsibility for your actions, and show sincere remorse for what you have done, you are also demonstrating the kind of behaviour you expect from your child when they misbehave.

Admitting you are wrong helps to develop respect with your child and makes them understand that they can apologise (and be forgiven) for disrespectful behaviour too.


Solidifying values & respect

Many children and teens lack respect. It might be respect for you as their parent, respect for authority, respect for their peers or respect for themselves. Whatever it is, understanding and demonstrating respect is a vital part of becoming successful in the adult world.

At the Veteran Mentors, we help to instil values such as respect at our 9-day military-inspired programs for kids and teens. Through purposeful lesson plans, our mentors can play an important role in teaching values and demonstrating the importance of respect to becoming an effective member of society.

To find out more about how to teach kids to respect others on our Junior Leader Programs, click here or get in touch with our mentors directly via

If you found this useful, you might also like our parental guides on how to deal with teenage behaviour problems.

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