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Teaching Respect

Arethra Franklin - Take it away!


Father and son talking on a jetty

‘Respect your elders’ is a saying that’s been around since before I was born. I’ve never agreed with it though. I believe you should respect everyone initially, at least until you can tell if they are worthy of respect. Respecting someone because they are older is ridiculous.


What if the ‘elder’ is a convicted paedophile, guilty of domestic abuse or tortures dogs for fun. Such a person couldn’t earn my respect under any circumstance. But until you know about a person, assume the best and treat them with respect accordingly.


It’s important to explicitly teach our children how to be respectful, as it is not necessarily intrinsic to them. So as a single dad, how should you teach your kids respect?


father and child pointing into the distance

Model Respectful Behaviour

One of the most effective ways to teach respect to children is by modelling respectful behaviour. A child’s first teacher is their parents, and they tend to emulate the behaviours they observe. If dads treat others with kindness and respect, their children will likely do the same.

It is essential for you as a father to model respectful behaviour consistently, whether it is in the way you speak to others, the way you handle conflicts (especially when communicating with the children’s mum!), or the way you treat the environment.


scrabble tiles

Teach Good Manners

Good manners are an essential part of showing respect to others. Children should be taught basic manners such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I remember when my children were toddlers, and we were at a park with a group of other families for a birthday party. One of the families there were German, and the mum asked us why our children always said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when talking to others, because she said it was unnatural to say it for everything.


I know that Germans have words for ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and perhaps they don’t use them the same way we do in English, but it shocked me to hear a parent say it wasn’t necessary to do so. But then again maybe it was just them!


Holding the door open for people, waiting for a turn to speak or simply saying ‘Excuse me’ are other ways in showing respect to others. Parents should also teach children how to greet people properly, such as shaking hands (elbows in covid times), making eye contact or giving a polite nod of the head.


I’ve said many times that a school teacher spends half the time teaching content and the other half undoing bad parenting. A number of times, I have been holding a conversation with a parent and their child interrupts us and just starts talking for no important reason.


Young children do that because they haven’t fully learned the respectful way to do that. The problem is that the majority of parents actually stop our conversation and divert all attention to their child. This is a missed teachable moment for the parent to say to their child ‘Please don’t interrupt when I’m talking, i’ll be with you in a moment’.


boy punching another in the face

Dealing with Conflict

Conflict is a part of life, and it is important for children to learn how to resolve conflicts in a respectful manner. Parents can teach children how to communicate effectively by encouraging them to express their feelings and listen to others. They can also teach children how to find common ground and compromise.

Children should be taught that it is okay to disagree with others, but it is essential to do so in a respectful manner. Hopefully, this should be the manner in which your kids see you interacting with their mother, since it is likely they have been observing this since birth.


scrabble tiles

Listening isn’t just waiting for your turn to speak

Active listening is an essential part of showing respect to others. Children should be taught to listen carefully when others are speaking, and to ask questions to clarify what they have heard. Single dads can encourage children to practice active listening by asking them to repeat what others have said, or by playing listening games (like 'I went to the shops and I bought...)that require them to pay close attention. This game involves taking turns to say what you bought at the shops, the list gets longer and the person whose turn it is has to repeat the entire list before adding a new one to it.


In a busy dad’s lifestyle, taking time to listen to your children might not always be convenient, but it’s important to do so.


coloured crayons

Empathy and Diversity

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is an essential skill for building respectful relationships. A dad can encourage empathy by teaching children to put themselves in other people's shoes. For example, if a child sees another child crying, they can be taught to ask if they are okay and offer to help. Parents can also encourage children to think about how their words and actions may affect others.


Diversity is an essential part of building a tolerant and inclusive society. Dads can teach children about the respecting diversity by exposing them to different cultures, religions, and ways of life. They can also encourage children to be open-minded and to appreciate the differences between themselves and others even if they don’t like or agree with it.


It’s also with noting that whilst the primary aim of this article is about teaching respect to others, that our environment is also something we need to respect.


Fortunately, this generation is growing up at a time that is much more aware of human impact on environment and this is also actively taught in schools. That doesn’t stop you from reminding kids to pick up litter and not drop it themselves though.


‘Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself’. A much better thing to teach children then ‘respect your elders’.


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