What is Respect?
Do we really understand respect enough to practice it properly ourselves. Are we really teaching respect to our children, or are we confusing it with admiration or fear of authority?
Growing up as the youngest of 5 siblings, people often said to me, “respect your elder.” I didn’t really know why then but I remember I resented this command for most of my childhood days.
Now that I understand things a bit better, I realize most grownups haven’t the faintest idea what they’re talking about when they say “respect your elder.”
How we get it wrong
First, how can children respect their elders if they don’t know what respect looks and feels like? Children are good observers and they copy what they see. If they’re being nurtured in an environment where respect is practiced you don’t need to tell them such things—they’ll do it instinctively.
Second, as with love, respect cannot be forced out of people—even from children. You can’t tell young children, “Respect me!” and expect them to comply. What you’re really saying to them is, “Do as I say, or else you’ll get a beating!” Doing so will not only make them not respect you, it will most probably also make them hate you.
If you really want your children to respect you, first, show your children what “respect” is by first practicing it yourself. You must first respect your children. Treat your children as your equals, not as your subordinates who you can boss around. Children are capable human beings—much more capable than you might think.
Do not force your ideas on them. Guide them, but let them unfold as they are. Don’t laugh at them or brush off their “petty” worries as nothing. Instead, practice empathy and try to see things from their perspective. Explain how things are, while still having concerns for their concerns.
In other words, see each child as a unique human being with unique needs, skills, and dreams. Encourage them to become who they are so they’ll learn to love themselves. You’ll need to practice more patience and understanding to pull this off. Seeing this, children will learn how it is to really respect someone, and they may choose to practice it in turn.
BTW, I’m mostly telling this to my grownup self. But if it resonates with you, my dear readers, then I hope this gives you a new perspective with regard to child-rearing. Check out our Ikigai Life Journal to help you be more self-aware when communicating with your children.