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 by Barbara J. Smyly  Copyright Protected

I USED TO BE A PERFECT PARENT……and then I had kids. I used to try to figure out which one of them stole from me in utero all that wonderful knowledge I had about raising the perfect kids and what magic could bring it back to me. Reality set in eventually and I realized I am not perfect, my children are not perfect and our world is not perfect. This realization is the beginning of true parenthood. I now have room to make mistakes and learn from them but more importantly, my kids have room to make mistakes and grow from them.

What a perfect parent I am. Ooops!

This realization was the first step in showing my children what respect is. Respect is a value that is important for us to pass along to our children and can most effectively be done through demonstration on a day to day basis. Teaching respect takes many forms; respect for themselves, respect for others, respect for property, respect the life around us and respect for our differences. It is an ongoing process, critical for our children because it is the foundation upon which many of our character traits are built and very importantly, the foundation upon which THEY will judge how others treat them now and in the future.

Most of us in our day to day dealings with our children and peers are respectful. We say hello when passing, we return phone calls as soon as we can, we respect others property, we respect the laws of the land and we fulfill our kids many daily requests or explain why it is not possible. This is all a part of being respectful to others. The only problem is that we don’t generally call it respect. The first time a child usually hears that word is when we say, “Don’t be disrespectful to…” (if you haven’t said it yet, hang on your day is coming) but do they know what that means if we haven’t labeled those behaviors they do have as being respectful? Contrary to popular belief, kids don’t just wake up one day as the “aliens” we call teenagers, it is a 13/14 year learning process. Let’s start to point out to them all those things they do daily which are respectful of themselves and others. Let’s teach them which actions, opinions and language skills are respectful so that when they are disrespectful or pushing that line they know what correction to take without our having to teach it.

Perhaps by teaching them now, they will learn that self-respect is not something their friends or peers can give them; but respect will be something they give and therefore demand from both. It gives older children a tool to put into perspective the teasing and taunting that comes with the “alien age” and helps them to put the problem where it belongs…on the one whose mouth is moving. It gives way to the conversation, “Do I respect that person and does their opinion of me count? No?” Problem solved.

Maybe our kids are perfect after all. Ooops!

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