"Respect must be earned, not demanded" is a popular quote found most recently in Sherrilyn Kenyon's 2011 book "Retribution" that can easily apply to fathers. Receiving respect from children is important to dads. But forcing kids to outwardly comply to demands for respect won't produce true inward respect; it will only worsen the father-child relationship. However, fathers can foster respect in their children over time.
Children don't naturally show respect. Fathers need to teach kids the importance and behavior of respect, preferably beginning when children are young. It can start with teaching proper manners, such as saying "Thank you" when someone does something for them. Fathers can teach their kids to respect authority by encouraging them to call adults by "Mr." or "Mrs." and their last name and avoiding interrupting adults in the middle of a sentence. Dads can teach children to respect others' possessions and differences in race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and socioeconomic level. The more they teach respect, the more likely their children will learn to give it.
A father's treatment of his children's mother plays an influential role in how much his kids respect her -- and him. Talking respectfully to the children's mother is a valuable starting point. Kids learn to yell at and belittle others from watching and hearing one parent screaming and using sarcasm with their other parent. Treating mom as an equal partner instead of trying to dominate the household is another sign of respect that children will pick up on. Being respectful to the kids' mother is especially helpful in showing sons how to respect their future wives when they become fathers.
Respect the Children
Fathers earn kids' respect by treating them respectfully. Gaining kids' respect takes a multifaceted approach. First, talk respectfully to children. Avoid sarcasm, screaming or belittling when addressing them. Set consistent expectations, too. Children need healthy boundaries that keep them safe and show you care for them. Seek cooperation from your kids over compliance; let children offer their ideas and opinions in age-appropriate ways. And remember the problem that needs to be fixed is the kids' behavior -- not the kids themselves -- when they disobey.
How many dads have told their children to speak to them with respect and to respect their authority as a parent? Do those same fathers speak with respect to and about neighbors, bosses, teachers, coaches, co-workers, friends, pastors and the postal carrier who is chronically late in delivering the mail? Talking disrespectfully about others, and to others, in front of children gives kids a poor example to emulate. While respect is taught, more than anything, it is caught. Model respect for those around you so your kids catch your good example.
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