My kids have split personalities. One minute they’re batting their beady eyes at me and politely asking for a drink of water. The next minute they’re acting like tiny tyrants and demanding that I get them a snack “right now.” The other day I caught a glimpse of the first version, when I dropped my oldest son off at school. It was raining so I had to drop him off at the office instead of his normal line outside. I kissed him goodbye and waited while he jumped out the minivan and walked to the door. What I saw next made me beam with pride. As he opened the door to the office, which looked like it was a bit heavy for my first grader to manage by himself, a lady and her daughter walked up a few feet behind him. He then proceeded to stand in the rain, with his back pressed against the door signaling for the mother and daughter to go ahead of him. He got rained on while he ever so politely held the door for them.
I wish I could take credit for his act of kindness, but I think it probably has more to do with my husband. He is the most respectful man I’ve ever known. He holds doors open for strangers, helps friends whenever they need him and always has a smile on his face. He is the guy who would help an elderly person cross the street or change a tire for someone he’s never met. Once when we was driving home from work he saw a lady in a broken down car crying in the middle of the street. She sat in her car sobbing out of pure panic, unaware of how to handle the situation. Sure enough – my husband pulled over and pushed her car to safety. I could of married him again that day.
Another time I remember, we were driving home from dinner when we witnessed an accident right in front of us. As we drove down the busy freeway, my husband suddenly slammed on his breaks. That’s when I saw a car flipping across the lanes. As the car flipped and eventually knocked into another car, I started to panic and wonder what to do. My husband, however, didn’t even hesitate. He quickly pulled the car over to safety and ran to the scene of the accident to see if he could help. I realize only now as a parent ,that while most of this is just part of his nature, it’s also due to the way he was raised. His parents taught him about the importance of respect and that is something I’ll always be grateful for.
This got me thinking about how I could ensure our kids grow up to be respectful, like their Dad. Chivalry is dying, but its not dead yet. Help me raise a generation of respectful, kind people who hold doors for people and smile. Here are my tips for teaching kids respect.
Practice What You Preach
When teaching your kids to be respectful it’s important to model the type of behavior you want to instill in them. If you want your kids to smile and be polite at the grocery store, then don’t be rude to the cashier. If you want them to open doors for people and say bless you when they sneeze, then make sure you’re doing those things too. A clear example is the best lesson you can give your kids. Like I said, my husband is a respectful man and his example will be the best possible lesson.
Take a Lesson From The Past
Back in the fifties (I’m told) people had manners. Men stood and removed their hats for the national anthem. People smiled and waved at their neighbors. Respect was much more common back then. We could take a lesson from this generation in the way we treat one another. Respect is not something you do only when something aligns with your values or makes sure not to offend you. No, respect is something that is part of a person’s character. If you live life waiting for someone to earn your respect before you give it, you always have a negative outlook on life. Give respect and you’ll get it back in return.
Teach Them To Put Others First
In my house I teach my children to put God first, then family and friends, then others, and then themselves. Does is always work? No, because we are selfish by nature. However, I will always try to encourage them to put themselves at the bottom of the priority list. To be a good friend, mother, father, brother, sister or even co-worker you need to learn how to put others ahead of yourself.
Encourage, Don’t Force
I’m always careful to encourage good habits, instead of forcing. It’s a fine line, but I don’t want my kids to grow up resenting the type of behaviors I’m trying to teach them. I want them to hold doors open, smile, be courteous and show respect out of want not because they’re forced to.
Teach Them Gratitude
In my opinion, nothing makes a more respectful attitude than gratitude. I think the two go hand in hand. Without a grateful attitude you rarely find a respectful one. Teach your children to be grateful in all scenarios.
I walked out of a doctor’s office one Saturday, grumbling because the doctor basically told me I wasted my time coming in. Because what I thought was a rash, was just excema and would heal on its own. Instead of being grateful, I was annoyed that I drove across town. As I walked to my car though, I passed a mother and her son. I wasn’t paying much attention until I noticed the young boy was bald. I smiled and I’ll never forget the way he immediately smiled back. He had such a wonderful smile. His mother smiled at me too, as I got my kids buckled in the car. As I drove home I started to cry and vowed to find the positive in all situations. My kids were healthy and I should be glad to deal with excema and not cancer. That mother smiled at me, even though her situation was probably painful – she smiled.
Good luck and please help me keep chivalry alive!