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How to talk to your child about respect and caring for others

Educate your child on the true meanings of respect, care, and sharing at a young age to help curb bullying and nasty behaviour later in life.

Your child’s values will not develop on their own unless they are taught by you, the parent. Catching your child in the act of bullying, being nasty, or being disrespectful towards another child (or adult) is a great teaching moment.

Here’s some advice on how to talk to your kids about respect and caring for others.

How to teach your child honesty

You’re playing a board game with your five-year-old when you see that he’s skipping forward in order to position himself for an unfair advantage. “Letting the small ones win” is something you’ve heard of, but you don’t want to encourage cheating. Instead of calling your child out and labelling him a “cheater”, gently guide him in the correct way and show him how to behave fairly. Try saying this: “It doesn’t matter who wins or loses. What matters is that we have fun playing. I’ll let you play that way with me, but then you have to let me play that way with you. Is this something you want?”

How to teach your child gratitude

Dinner guests present a gift for your four-year-old son. Without saying ‘thank you’, he opens it and starts playing with it. Instead of calling your child “rude”, try saying this: “Remember the importance of being polite and showing gratitude? I think you may have forgotten to say thank you.”

How to teach your child helpfulness

You ask your 6-year-old to help you clear the table after dinner, but he refuses. Instead of calling your child “unhelpful”, ask him to remain seated and try saying this: “Our family is a small team. Everyone in the family contributes to making things go smoothly, and now that you’re a big boy, you can join in the fun. Remember how much better it feels when I help you in putting your toys away? Now is your chance to help me.”

How to teach your child forgiveness

Your three-year-old accidentally knocks over the block tower his five-year-old sister just painstakingly built. Your son apologizes profusely and with tears in his eyes, but your daughter is still enraged. She snaps, “It’s too late!” Instead of calling your daughter “nasty”, try saying this: “I understand why you’re upset. That tower was a labour of love for you. Accidents happen, and your small brother isn’t able to keep up with you in the same way that you do.” Try to get her to recall a time she made a mistake, like spilling her cereal, and see if she can come up with an explanation for why she made this mistake. Talk about how forgiveness has benefited you by citing your own experiences and saying, “Accepting an apology always makes me feel better. Do you want to know how you feel when you try to forgive your brother?”

How to teach your child respect

You go to fetch your seven-year-old daughter from class and find her playing with a yo-yo while purposefully ignoring the teacher. Instead of calling your daughter “disrespectful”, try saying this to her after class is over: “One way to demonstrate respect is to pay attention when someone else is talking to you. It makes other people feel appreciated. I know you have a good grasp of the concept of respect. Surely you want your teacher to feel appreciated and respected?”

How to teach your child not to bully

You overhear your six-year-old daughter and a group of her pals being mean about another child behind their back, what should you do? Instead of calling your daughter “a bully”, try doing this: approach the group, admit that you overheard their chat, and ask all the children (your child included) open-ended questions. “How do you feel when other children say nasty things about you? Do nasty words make you feel sad and upset? How do you feel when other children say kind words about you? We all know that kind words are better than nasty words, so let’s speak nicely about other children, even if they can’t hear what you’re saying.”

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