Since becoming a “no spanking” family almost a year ago, one of the common questions I receive is about how I am teaching respect to my toddlers if I’m not spanking them. Our approach to teaching respect is that it is not built on fear, which teaching “respect” through physical pain often does. Those who have never tried a no-spanking method of teaching discipline are often nervous at the thought of attempting to teach respect to young children without spanking, but with these tips, you can have confidence that you are going to do more than you think.
1) Demand respect for yourself by the way you dress. This means, get dressed every morning. Don’t ever wear your pajamas to Wal-Mart, and never allow your children to, either. I’m not saying you need to wear make up and heals, but you do need to be neat and clean. Present the image that you want to be treated as.
2) Demand respect for yourself by speaking appropriately. Don’t use slang language, curse words, improper grammar, or say things that you don’t actually mean. Listen to your children as though everything they say is important, because to them it is. As is age and developmentally appropriate, correct your child to also speak appropriately.
3) Show respect for authority. Believe me, my 3-year-old knows that I’m not supposed to talk on the cell phone while driving, and she says something when I do! What kind of message am I giving her when I choose to break the law in front of her? If there is a rule, you need to follow it. You can’t make exceptions for yourself that you aren’t also willing to make for your child.
4) Be consistent. If you are expecting your children to fold their hands and be quiet while praying one evening, then you need to have that same expectation the next evening.
5) Show respect to your spouse. Your child will notice if you complain about your husband to your girl friend on the phone. They will notice if you treat your spouse like a child, disregard, or don’t appreciate him. And they will certainly notice if you aren’t on the same team together when an issue arises! If you want your child to respect his or her parents, then the parents need to show respect to each other.
6) Build empathy. Use emotion words, such as “sad,” “happy,” and “scared” when talking about why someone behaves a certain way. Help your child begin to sympathize with others and believe that each person has value by not making unnecessary judging comments about others (focus on the issue, not the person), by taking the time to help others, and by showing that you care about others. A person who empathizes with someone is not disrespectful to that person.
7) Have consequences. When your child speaks or acts disrespectfully to you, if he or she is young, explain what he did wrong and that he is not to do it again. If the transgression is repeated, I follow it immediately with a time out, and an apology from that child. For an older child, have consequences determined ahead of time, and use those consequences to build empathy towards others and respect for himself and you. This could be taking away privileges, requiring volunteer time somewhere, extra chores, etc..
8) Build your child up. We’re not going for entitlement here, so don’t be confused! What you want to convey is a sense of value and respect within your child for herself. A person who feels respected and valued, and who has an intrinsic sense of it will usually not lash out and be disrespectful towards others, because disrespect is often a defense mechanism or stems from a sense of no control.