Monday, July 10, 2023

Are Kids Today Less Respectful?

Maybe you have heard that today’s children and teens are disrespectful, or at least less respectful than generations past. In order to put this to the test, we have to think about how much kids’ ways of communicating have changed and, more importantly, how the parent-child relationship has evolved over time. While it’s true both kiddos and their parents are facing new challenges and situations in today’s world, it may be for exactly that reason that teaching respect is more important than ever. 

Here are some important things to keep in mind when thinking about how to respect your child or teen and teaching them to respect themselves and others:

First, it’s very important to understand what respect means. Respect is made up of knowledge, intention, and reflection. There is a huge difference between doing something to disrespect another person and knowing that it’s “wrong”, and doing something to disrespect another person without having that understanding. This is especially true with our kiddos. Think about all the times kids say things they shouldn’t. It’s essential that, as parents, we take into consideration our children’s/teen’s age and level of development when it comes to disrespectful words or actions, and maintain realistic expectations.

Another important factor when it comes to disrespect in children/teens (especially today), is a sense of entitlement. When a child or teen is acting entitled, it is a sign that they may not yet understand what it means to respect family values, time, money, resources, or efforts. Social media and our ability to access things quickly these days can contribute to child/teen’s increasing desires for “stuff” and “stuff” right now! When children/teens are demanding and seemingly unappreciative, it’s our responsibility to help them understand and appreciate what our family values are, how we view time and money, what kinds of resources we have, and what is important to us.

Being respectful of differences is also a very important skill for children/teens to learn. Kids will inevitably come in contact with people that look different from them, in multitudes of ways, and have different backgrounds, experiences, interests and views. It’s important to be curious about others. Being respectful of others’ opinions or beliefs, though, doesn’t mean always having to agree with them. It’s ok for people to have different ideas (if these ideas are not harmful to others or unsafe). It means recognizing that they exist and being able to reflect on them.

In any discussion of respect or how to incorporate it in your child’s/teen’s life, remember that it’s not just about respecting others. Kids also need to be shown that they need to respect themselves. Whether that means discussing when and how to stand up for themselves, how to voice their own opinions, or place limits/boundaries when they are feeling uncomfortable, we must teach them to look inward when talking about respect as well.

Teaching our kids about respect starts with us. Sometimes, especially in the case of losing patience or stressful situations, we can behave in disrespectful ways towards our child/teen without even realizing it. Wouldn’t you say it’s disrespectful for a friend of yours to start reprimanding you in front of a whole group? You should use the same criteria when thinking about your kids. If we can be good examples of modeling respectful behavior, whether it be with your spouse or the cashier in the supermarket, we will be able to show our kids exactly what respect looks like. Remember, they are always watching. 

Lastly, we can’t forget about respect for the group. Our kids also need to learn about what respect looks like when they are part of a group, whether that be a class, a club, a family, or society as a whole. If we can incorporate democratic practices into our daily routines, we will not only increase our children’s and teen’s independence but also show that we respect their opinions. While the adult is the one in charge, giving them options makes them feel that their voice is being heard and respected. Another helpful way to work on this is through games that involve taking turns. Helping our kiddos with waiting and patience, not interrupting, being aware of their tone of voice and body language, following through on commitments and responsibilities, and respecting the time of others’ is very beneficial for their development and maturity.

Helping children and teens develop respectful qualities takes patience and repeated efforts. It’s a skill that builds over time.