How can I best teach my children to have respect for others?
June 1974

“How can I best teach my children to have respect for others?” Ensign, June 1974, 56–57

How can I best teach my children to have respect for others, including those placed in authority over them?

Darnell Zollinger, Instructor in child development, Brigham Young University: The key to teaching our children to respect others is to realize that such respect really grows out of self-respect. We need to teach by example and to show our children that we have respect for them, both as our children and as our eternal brothers and sisters.

Let me suggest some specific ways we can practice the principle of respect.

1. Listen to your children. When a child comes to you to tell you something, listen attentively. If you have to leave before the child has finished what he has to say, don’t just walk away. Explain that you have to leave and ask him to finish a little later. Let him know you respect what he has to say.

2. Show your confidence in his abilities and give him real responsibilities. Once you assign a responsibility to your child, let him fulfill it, even if it takes a little longer and is not as well done as you might like. If you ask your daughter to fix dinner and she burns the potatoes, give her time to correct the mistake; don’t rush in and undermine her confidence in her abilities.

3. Ask your children for their advice and opinions. That will give them a feeling that what they think is important. If you ask advice—on the fastest way home, on what to plant in the garden, or on what to have for dinner—then take the advice.

4. Take time to explain your rules and standards of behavior. The child should be made to understand cause and effect in his life. Children need to know their limits so that they can grow by exercising their agency within the limits you and others have set. Usually when parents take time to explain the rules, when the time comes for a child to respond out of “blind obedience,” he will feel more comfortable in doing so.

5. Admit your own mistakes. It is a fallacy to think that if you admit your mistakes your children will not respect you. The reverse is more often true.

6. Show your own respect for authority. Don’t criticize those placed in positions of leadership. If your children come home complaining about the bishop or a Sunday School teacher, try to find a logical way to answer the criticism without belittling either your child or the bishop or the Sunday School teacher.

These are only some of the ways that you can build your child’s self-respect, but they are good beginnings. If a child knows he is loved and respected, he will be far more likely to return that love and respect.