Boost Kids’ Self-Confidence with these 5 Ways to Teach Respect

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Welcome to part 6, the final post in the Brain Stages Emotional Quotient Series.

You’ve probably noticed the underlying theme for how to help kids grow into healthy emotional intelligence and improve your own as well is to model and talk about how to respect yourself and show respect to others.

The Oxford Dictionary defines respect as 1) a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements, and 2) due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.

Oxford defines self-respect as pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity.

At the most basic level, you’re already teaching your kids about respect by saying please and thank you to those who serve you and reminding them to do the same.

If you’ve been reading these posts for the past five weeks and trying some of our suggestions, your children are learning about emotions, theirs and others’, and how to deal with them.

You’re in the process of teaching your kids how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. You’re giving them what researchers believe is the gift of happiness.

You’re practicing how to focus, respond, and be curious in family conversations—a true act of mutual respect and validation.

You’re guiding your children to celebrate mistakes and failures by using what they’ve learned to help them in the future.

You acknowledge your children for their strengths and compassion, which builds their confidence—and brings us full circle.

That is, your children are developing the respect for and belief in themselves necessary to weather life’s storms, big and small, and how to respect others so they can create healthy relationships.

[S]elf-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth.” – Joan Didion, 1961.

And you’re exercising your children’s minds for deep thinking. Researchers have found that emotionally driven moral decisions present an orchestral process within the brain, enthralling and beautiful on an fMRI screen.[2]

Kids who respect themselves and think of others have amazing power. Take 11-year-old Ruby Kate Chitsey. Amy Chillag, reporter for CNNwrote a story about Ruby Kate, a fifth-grader who raised $70,000 to help the elderly by running a campaign on GoFundMe.

CNN: Ruby Kate

Ruby Kate’s goal is to grant as many elderly people as possible their simple wishes—things like a pair of pants that fit, fresh fruit, or a good book to read. She started small, in the retirement home where her mom is a nurse practitioner, and she’s expanded to several retirement communities.


6 Ways to Help Kids Develop Self-respect and Respect for Others

1.Model saying please and thank you, and remind your children to do the same.

If you already do this, give yourself a pat on the back. But in this hustle-bustle world, sometimes the most basic forms of respect fall by the way-side. Kids who have their pleases and thank yous down get along better with peers, teachers—heck, pretty much everyone—than kids who don’t.

2.Get your kids in the habit of picking up after themselves. 

Explain to them that taking their dishes to the sink or putting them in the dishwasher after they eat is a way to show respect in your home as well as personal responsibility. Your children will likely give you some pushback on this—a lot at first but less and less as it becomes a habit. Even if they grumble at home, they’ll likely be polite at other people’s houses, which will endear them to their friends’ parents.

The same goes for cleaning up after playing games or doing art projects. Sometimes it’s easier to clean up your kids’ messes rather than hassling them doing it. But think about it. Spending the extra time in the beginning will save you a TON of work in the long run, and your children will be welcome anywhere they want to go.

3.Teach your kids the Golden Rule: treat others as they want to be treated. 

I know this sounds obvious, but the Golden Rule includes respecting someone who doesn’t agree with you or who does something differently than you do. Kids often have a hard time with this. Heck, a lot of adults have trouble accepting differences of opinions too.

People’s experiences, cultures, and values, even within the same neighborhood, can vary widely. We can still be kind, considerate listeners when we don’t identify with someone’s beliefs or attitudes.

Kids need to be taught how to voice a differing opinion but then let it go if their viewpoint starts an argument. Arguments tend to alienate people rather than change their minds anyway.

Children also need to know that it’s okay to keep an open mind and respect other people’s views. It doesn’t mean they have to change their own ideals to that person’s way of thinking.

4.Give your children permission to speak up in a respectful way when someone treats them with disrespect.

A good way to speak up in a disarming way is to begin with a question, and give the offender a way out when possible.

“Did you cut in front of me in line on purpose, or did you not realize I was next?”

“Are you being mean on purpose, or did you say that because you weren’t thinking?

“Were you laughing because I didn’t know the answer?” This calls out the rude person without starting a fight. If the person says yes, your child can say something like— “Seriously?” Give a chuckle and say, “That one can backfire on you the next time you make a mistake.”

Practice role playing questions for possible scenarios in a safe place with your kids so they’ll have tools to use when they get into a sticky social situation.

5.Get your children in the habit of offering to help.

Have your kids help you bring in groceries, cook meals, clean up the kitchen, fold the laundry—whatever you do to maintain your household. The key is to have them do these things WITH YOU. While doing chores together, you can talk about life in a casual atmosphere.

Researchers have found that two-way conversations between adults and children are the cornerstone for success in adulthood.[3]

Doing such activities together not only makes contributing to the family a mutually pleasant experience, you’ll find that your children offer to help in other circumstances, such as setting up chairs before an event at school. Asking to participate instead of waiting to be asked shows a special kind of respect and maturity. 

6.Teach your child to acknowledge other people.

You’re likely already giving your children compliments when they do something positive to reinforce their behavior, which is great. The next step, which I didn’t learn until I was an adult, is to openly acknowledge colleagues and friends for accomplishments and attributes that you appreciate in them. And do this in front of your children as much as possible.

I’m not talking about blowing smoke—I mean offer real, sincere, specific compliments for things about people that you truly admire.

How much more pleasant would my life have been if rather than competing and comparing myself to others, I could have expressed gratitude for the very things I was comparing and competing with?

I noticed how a friend and fellow teacher pointed out my strengths and how great her acknowledgements made me feel. This didn’t seem to diminish her own skills or accomplishments. In fact, the positive energy seemed to give her a boost as well.

I’ve followed her example to this day. Even better, our own children have learned this trait, which has served them well as individuals, students, employees, friends, and in finding wonderful partners for life.

How wonderful that they learned about acknowledging people as children!

I’m not upset with my parents for not teaching me the importance of acknowledging people. All we can do as parents is the best we can. But we’re so lucky to have lots resources nowadays!

And I’m grateful that I had a wonderful example who transformed my thinking and gave our children such a valuable gift.

PATRICIA WILKINSON – mother of two, taught grades kindergarten through sixth for 23 years, in both public and private schools. She earned a BA in recreation from California State University, Long Beach, and did graduate work at California State Universities, Los Angeles and Chico, to earn a Clear Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential and Language Development Specialist certificate from the State of California. Today, Trish facilitates life-changing workshops for parents and teachers. It’s amazing what can happen when years of creativity and practical experience merge with thousands of hours of brain research. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her awesome husband, Chuck, and their rambunctious golden retriever, Alice. Visit her at

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