Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekly Column: Show Some Respect

Imagine for a moment what it must be like to be a toddler. You are happily playing with your blocks, entranced with the formidable tower you are building, when you’re suddenly lifted from the floor and hauled to another room. The outrage! You were busy! Where are the blocks? You disintegrate into tears and a screaming fit, unable to reconcile the past with the present.

When this same scenario (with different particulars, probably) happens to us as adults, we don’t stand for it. We demand apology for assuming our activity wasn’t important, and we agree to consider another task only after we’re given a good reason for abandoning our own.

As parents, it’s one of our responsibilities to raise our children to be respectful and courteous. One of the easiest ways to teach those traits is to show our children respect and courtesy from an early age. But those are far-reaching outcomes; what I love about this approach is its immediate help. It’s been a lifesaver in our house to take up the easy habit of warning our kids of impending change. Even before their vocabulary is well formed, they can be expected to understand our basic meaning. If we give a quick warning before the final story of the night, or when there are only a few minutes left before it’s time to put away the toys, the transition is made infinitely smoother. Huge, tear-filled fits are often traded for short bursts of frustration; the major tantrums are usually sidestepped.

Our hope is that by doing these things on a regular basis, our children won’t get quite so upset when they don’t get their own way. They’ll learn that our limits are enforced, but with respect. They’ll learn that we use courtesy, and we expect it in return.


  1. Amen. Still learning about this, but it was a huge change for my parenting.

  2. Great column, great advice! You're on a roll, Sarah :)

  3. You're right - it's hard being a toddler!

  4. Well put. Giving little ones a heads up is such a tear saver and definitely more respectful.


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