Teaching Respect in a Rude World

By Laura Higlers
May 2007


Congratulate your child when he does something well, whether it's tying his shoelace or sharing a toy with his sister: positive feedback can enforce good behavior. But don't try to boost a child's self-worth by showering him with endless praise. "Kids can tell when you're not being sincere," says Dr. Paul Donahue, a psychologist and director of Child Development Associates, in Scarsdale, New York. "They're very quick to sniff out false praise, and that will take away from those times when they really have done something special."

From the time they're little, kids should do "chores" around the house. Give your toddler a big sponge and show her how to wipe the tray of her high chair after each meal. Have your preschooler help you sort socks when you're doing the laundry. Why? "The more kids feel like they're contributing to the family, the better they feel about themselves." says Dr. Donahue. What's more, when you teach a child to pitch in, you're showing him that he needs to participate in any community he's part of - his school, his sports team, his neighborhood, even his nation.

Your child notices if your smile kindly at the custodian at school or offer to help the supermarket cashier with your groceries. "Children need to see that we act and speak respectfully to - and about - other people, whether it's our spouses, their teachers and babysitters, or people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds," says Dr. Donahue. Remember, if you lose your cool - you make a bigoted remark, for example, or call someone a jerk for driving too slowly - own up to your behavior.

Copyright 2007. Used with permission from the September 2007 issue of Parents magazine.