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Gaining Respect

Gaining Respect

Treating your kids with respect is the best way to teach them to respect you. Think you can pull it off?


How do I get my kids to respect me?

One of my favorite teachers of all time, a rabbi, used to tell us, "If you want your children to study Torah, then you should study Torah; if you want them to give charity, let them see you giving charity."

I am also reminded of a beautiful poem on the wall of my pediatrician's office when I was a little boy, entitled "Children Learn What They Live." The simple truth it expressed was very powerful -- our children learn from our behavior, not from our lectures, from the way we are, not from what we say.

So, the short answer to the question is, if you want your kids to respect you, respect your kids. Model respect to them, by showing respect to your spouse, to your neighbors, to people different from you and don't forget to show self-respect as well.


There are all kinds of ways to demonstrate respect to your children, in the little things and in the big ones. Show them that you care about their opinions, and that while you may not always agree with them, their ideas have value. Always respect their dignity, their need for space or privacy, and never belittle them, or laugh at them.

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of respectful discipline. When your children push your buttons, when you feel like you're losing it, it is then, at that precise moment that you need to model a sense of calm. By maintaining your dignity, by not getting personal, by not hitting or name-calling, you communicate the incredibly important twin messages of love and respect.

In effect, you are saying through your actions: "Even though I am angry at you and even if I am hurt, I will not hurt you. I love you."

When you do something wrong, apologize, because this will build trust, and their respect for you will grow.

Assertive parenting is not aggressive parenting -- your children are fragile souls.

Assertive parenting is not aggressive parenting, and if your children see how careful you are with their fragile souls, they will learn to be careful of others. Assertive parenting also means being firm and not being afraid to disagree, set limits and provide appropriate negative consequences such as time out, grounding, and so on. Your child doesn't have to agree with you, he/she just needs to feel loved and respected.


The parental attitude discussed above begins with the birth of your child. It is the attitude that he/she is a separate entity, not an extension of the parent. It is not the child's job to gratify the needs of the parent, to be the fulfillment of a father's unfulfilled dreams or a mother's never realized wishes.

Judaism views the ideal parent-child relationship as one of warmth and closeness as it is the primary vehicle for the transmission of our traditions, values and laws.

The Torah demands that the child respect his/her parents, but true respect grows from within.

The Talmud teaches us that this transmission, representing the continuity of our religion, is rooted in the joy and love of its practitioners.

Yes, the Torah demands that the child respect his/her parents, but it is the wise parent who knows that forced respect is empty and that true respect grows from within, in an environment of love, approval, and joy.

It is our job to help our children respect us, by being worthy of respect, by living lives that we are proud of and by connecting with our kids in a deep, loving, spiritual, joyful way.

March 18, 2000

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) kim, April 21, 2013 5:22 AM

Trying hard

I grew up in an emotionally abusive and oppressive home environment. I try very hard not to treat my daughter as negatively as I had been treated, but I find myself treating my daughter with "kid gloves" when she disrespects me because of my fear of displaying the same behaviour that I grew up with. I will practice being calm and showing respect with the tips given in the article.

Thank you.

(4) Rachel Leah, December 29, 2009 6:05 AM

Thank You

It is very hard to control your self when they push your botton , even when you really try to respect them some times it goes out of control, i need to find a way to stay calm on that moments.

(3) Simon, January 17, 2008 8:51 PM

For Esther

"...our children learn from our behavior, not from our lectures, from the way we are, not from what we say".

Hi Esther. I read your comments and by now your should me a mom of a 6-7 year old child. I hope things are going wonderfully for you. We both have similar pasts and prior to becoming a parent I too had anxious thoughts about carrying over my own parents behavious. I still do. I too come from a family where respect was demanded, where violence was common place, where church was frequented weekly. My sons are now 11 and 9. I am seperated from my partner over 9 years ago and she has re-married. I do not have a partner of my own. I struggle to keep the shadow of my past at bay when parenting my children - I love them dearly however have unwittingly joined in my parents behaviour, primarily demanding respect and swearing. This is something I have to work on all my life because I have not yet let go of those behaviours I learnt - why cant I?

(2) Kim Schotte, March 21, 2006 12:00 AM

you are wise

I am impressed at the wisdom you are displaying in your answers. I wish that when I was a child and I had unanswerable questions, that I hadn't frightened adults into shutting me up or giving me pat and packaged answers to difficult questions. Four words-
"God loves you always" are a strong beginning. My daughter is going through a divorce and my granddaughter's school gave her a little book on divorce , which she refused to read, because my granddaughter is smarter than that at four and ...more than anything else, she seems to want to know the score.... It was eye-opening when she told her preschool teacher (who is my daughter's boss) -
-"My Mommy needs a hug."

(1) Anonymous, May 1, 2000 12:00 AM

Thank you for this truthful article. I am a newly married female who has searched for such words of wisdom while growing up. Unfortunately, I didn't find them until my mid to late twenties.
I was a child who respected yet disrespected my parents and am now observing my 23 yr. old brother who is a confused young man with an aching soul...who has turned to drugs to soothe his pain.
Our parents are both loving and caring individuals who came out of broken homes. As a result they never learned from their parents the teachings of your article. It is only now that my mother is coming to grips with this reality, though she has not yet enveloped it. My father I fear will never become aware of the damage of his actions. He demands respect without giving it. He demanded calm, quite speech in time of distress though didn't usually demonstrate it. He had on few occasions acted out with physcial abuse at me and to some extent my mother while I was growing up, and has demonstrated anger in general.
I am trying very hard to cope with my anger before I become a mom through articles like yours, religion and books.
Thank You, Esther.

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