Teaching Your Child Respect And Humility

As a parent, how can you help your child build the two most important qualities necessary for success in life? And can they help your little one become a better human being? Read on to find out!

By Deepika Mohan

Teaching Your Child Respect And Humility

I had the opportunity to meet the Late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam at the Rashtrapati Bhavan when he was the President. He walked up to each one of us, shook our hands and asked for our names. As a Class 11 student then, I was in awe. I expected him to talk about his achievements and probably how he studied better than those in his class. I was wrong. Instead of talking about himself, he spoke about how young children are the future of India and how we should work hard to make India proud. As a teenager, it was a life lesson for me. 

Humility is a way of life. It needs to be practiced all the time irrespective of your talent or success. Dr Kalam’s simplicity bowled me over. Humility is the quality of having a modest view of one's importance. Humility and respect are interdependent. Swiss moral philosopher Henri Frédéric Amiel rightly said, "There is no respect for others without humility in one's self." Some teenagers assume that respect is about pretending to be nice to elders irrespective of whether they like them or not. It is not. Respect is a way of showing concern and consideration towards another person irrespective of age, religion and sex.

Ways to teach your child respect and humility

By being respectful and humble, your child will earn the trust and respect of others around her, and build strong relationships. Be it in school or at the future workplace, your child will have the ability to work in a team only if she respects others. Remind your child that she cannot succeed in life on her own, and that success is achievable only when others help her rise to the top.

1. Teach your child to respect himself: In a recent job interview, the interviewer asked the candidate, "Who do you love and respect the most in life?" The candidate’s response was thought-provoking. She said, “I love myself and respect myself the most because if I don’t, I will never be able to love and respect others.” So, remind your child that he is important to those around him and that he plays a pivotal role in this world. This will boost his self-esteem and prevent him from choosing unwanted company by giving in to negative peer pressure. Once your child learns to respect himself, he will understand the need to respect others. For this, ensure your teen takes care of himself physically, mentally and emotionally. Teach him to eat healthy, exercise regularly, sleep right and keep away from alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

2. Be a role model: Children, regardless of age, learn by example. And the best example is set by parents. If you want your child to be respectful, you need to start by being respectful to others. "Children tend to model behaviours. Often, parents inadvertently make certain statements or express themselves in ways that allow for an unconscious learning of prejudices and biases. Parents should strive to make a meaningful impact on their children's lives by consciously watching their language and not perpetuating biases,” says Kirthi Jayakumar, founder of Red Elephant Foundation, an initiative that aims at raising awareness towards creating societies of tolerance, peace-building and equality.

3. Work to develop respectful relationships with your child: It isn’t enough to be respectful to others. You need to be respectful towards your child as well. If you have an argument with your child, listen to her viewpoint without judging. For, being her parent does not make you right always. If you’ve made a mistake, ask for forgiveness. This will help you build a better bond with your teen and establish the need to be respectful.

4. Provide opportunities for your child to practice respect and humility: Every individual has the desire to be respected. Teenagers feel the same way. When you help your teen with homework or you serve him food and he forgets to thank you, point it out. When you are discussing a problem at home as a family, give your teen an opportunity to talk. Listen to him with genuine interest and consider his opinion. This will make him understand that he is respected and that he needs to do the same with others.

Teaching Your Child Respect And Humility

5. Help your child build tolerance: Your teen meets her teachers, friends and new people every day. Apart from physical differences, everyone your teen meets will be different in terms of religion, gender, behaviour, values, culture, ethnicity, and dressing style. It is important to make your teen understand that differences are normal and every individual needs to be accepted and respected. “Parents should make their children understand that diversity is a beautiful factor — and is not a basis for hatred or discrimination," adds Kirthi Jayakumar. Make your child understand clearly that intolerance leads to anger and rage, which, in turn, leads to a war of words, physical abuse and irreparable relationships.

Teaching Your Child Respect And Humility

6. Help your child be receptive to feedback: Being open to ideas and constructive criticism is a way of showing respect to others. If your child complains to you about her teacher, talk to the child instead of blaming her. Help your child analyse her performance and identify areas where she could improve. Assure your teen that feedback from someone who has experience in life will only help her grow. This way, she will learn to respect those who give ideas and feedback as opposed to developing a hatred for them. If your child receives unnecessary criticism, teach her to ignore such comments and let it go instead of answering back or arguing.

7. Positive change-maker: Promote your child’s ability to be an ethical thinker, one who is guided by a desire to make a positive impact and think about what is best for everyone. He needs to listen to everyone’s point of view before arriving at a conclusion. By being an ethical thinker, your child will learn to respect others’ opinions and listen without judging or interrupting. This is a very useful lesson to learn, especially if he is chosen as a class leader. Provide opportunities for your child to participate in various events and causes, ranging from running a marathon to raise awareness on important issues, helping abused animals, teaching younger children who cannot afford education, volunteering for activities in school to any other area of interest to him. Help your child to regularly engage in community service. It would be good for you to participate with him as well. This will not only help him be a positive change-maker in his community but also, help him be an ethical thinker.

Teaching Your Child Respect And Humility

8. Teach your child how to respond: Being polite is not something your child can learn in a day. It needs to be taught from the time your child understands what’s happening around him. Greeting others when they come home, asking others how they are, saying ‘Thank you’, ‘Please’ are all part and parcel of being respectful. Similarly, teaching your child to apologise and saying ‘Sorry’ when his actions hurt another person is important. Help him understand how expressing regret is a form of giving respect. Teach your child to accept a compliment genuinely. If your child is appreciated for his handwriting, ask him to accept the compliment with a 'Thank you' and say something he likes about the other person as well.

9. Guide her to respect things around her: Respect is not confined to humans alone. Things around your teen — be it at home, school, or elsewhere need to be treated with respect. Throwing things around, spitting on the road, throwing thrash on the road, vandalising public or private property are disrespectful acts. Tell your teen that being responsible, taking care of her belongings and being careful with others’ belongings are ways of showing respect to herself and those around her.   

Respect and humility can help you go a long way in life. By following these steps, your child will learn how to be respectful and humble along with understanding why these are important qualities to have. Moreover, you can even come up with your own ways of teaching your child these values as every day presents us with new ways to be respectful and humble. 

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