There is a lot of chatting going on nowadays about respectful behavior or showing respect. Celebrities and politicians could use a good dose of respectful behavior too, for that matter. Our children hear the word spoken in school and view posters of the word in their classrooms. But do they really know what it means to be respectful? What does it look like in action?

Here are 5 specific areas that children should learn in order to become truly respectful of themselves and others, too.

  1. Don’t be a space invader

Teach your children not to invade the space of others by showing them a good distance to stand when conversing with people. Try using a hula hoop and stand in the middle of it. This provides a measurement of how close is too close but also not being too far apart either. And if someone backs away a bit, it’s a signal that your child may be standing too close for the comfort of the other person.

  1. Watch tone of voice & particular words when making requests

As the saying goes, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” ~St. Francis de Sales. It’s no different when making requests. Teach your child to use good “request” words like:

“May I …?”

“Can I …?”

“Would you mind …?”

“Would it be okay if …?”

Demonstrate for them that “demanding” words are inappropriate like:

“Do this now!”

“I will not …”

“You should …”

The same goes for the tone of voice, too. Encourage your children to use the words, “Please”; “Thank you” frequently. You will need to remind them a lot during the day but that’s good. The lesson will eventually become a habit in their speech.

  1. Be willing to compromise in unimportant things

When your child hosts a friend over to play, the guest actually chooses the game or activity. This is an excellent opportunity to teach how to compromise. So after his/her guest has played the chosen game/activity, then your child can suggest a different activity since the guest was allowed to make the first choice.  The same is true for siblings arguing over what program to watch. This skill is so vital to their success both now and in the future. Always remind your children about not compromising on their values and beliefs, though. There’s no compromise if someone wants them to do something that’s wrong or harmful. Make sure they know the difference.

  1. Respect the boundaries of others

Respecting the boundaries refers to the personal space of others (see #1 above). It also means allowing others to play by themselves. Let others talk and do things with other friends. Suggest to your child that he/she shouldn’t force that friend to hang out with them exclusively. Your child should refrain from pursuing personal topics if the friend doesn’t want to talk about them. It also refers to respecting the personal property of others. Your child shouldn’t touch other’s belongings without permission. The same goes for borrowing. Always ask permission and the item should be returned in the same or better condition. If the item gets destroyed, then it needs to be replaced.

  1. Learn how to talk about feelings instead of acting out

Help your child to understand and label their feelings early on in their development. Guide them in how to express emotions respectfully. Your child may be angry but it’s not polite to bang their bedroom door or yell. In those moments of frustration, take some time to talk with your child about what’s bothering them. And make sure that you are calm in the moment, too. They will be listened to more by teachers, coaches and you as their parent, when your children become aware of how to use “polite” language to describe their emotions.

One way to teach this important virtue called RESPECT is to put down the gadgets and phones. The electronics rob parents of critical teaching moments. Reconnect with your children face to face so they can learn how to be respectful towards themselves and others.


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Maria and her Etiquette Program have been featured in several media outlets including:

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