Teaching Kids Respect

How do you get kids today to respect their elders?

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Comments (22)

(18) Nancy, August 25, 2014 3:18 PM

Rabbi--You just gave me THE ANSWER. For me respect means I shall not commit lashan hara against any of my relatives. Anytime we refrain from committing lashan hara, we set a good example for our family members.

(17) Anonymous, July 28, 2013 5:37 AM


I am so curious , about that question, I would like to know the answer why the brother dislike Joseph and not Jacob? Where can I find an answer?

Dvirah, September 26, 2013 7:36 PM

Joseph's Behavior

If you look at the story closely, you will find that a reason for Jacob's favoratism is given: Joseph was the son of his favorate wife, Rachel, who died young. I think that his other sons understood this and pitied their father, over and above the respect they also had for him, so were able to forgive him. But Joseph himself was not modest in his behavior - he boasted about his dreams in which others bowed down to him. So while the brothers were inhibited in hating Jacob due to respect in which they held him and the compassion they felt for his loss, they had no such inhibitions to hating Joseph - and did.

(16) Anonymous, July 27, 2013 10:16 PM

3rd Grade Abraham chutzpa

It is refreshing to know that a 3rd grader can come with this idea in a question. Unfortunately, the Rabbi did not give an answer. Its a good thing the first Jew, Abraham, smashed his father's idols and did not respect his father's idea of these idols.

(15) Anonymous, July 26, 2013 9:02 AM

honoring & respecting parents video by Rabbi Salomon

I thought you were going to honorably mention Joseph for "kibud av" who honored his father's request to go alone, unprotected, search for his brothers and face the consequences even though very much aware that his brothers hated him.

(14) Leah, July 26, 2013 2:37 AM

Follow through

(13) Chana Yosefa, July 26, 2013 2:23 AM

They were jealous of Joseph and he carried tales back to Jacob

The brothers hated Joseph because they were jealous, and also because he "tattled" on them to Jacob, bringing back reports of their bad behavior. Joseph was the tzaddik, the "poppa's boy". It wasn't Joseph's fault, but that's the way it was. I don't think they were "great". The brothers sat down and ate after throwing Joseph into the pit, ignoring his cries for help.

(12) Rachel, July 26, 2013 1:57 AM

What about teaching children to respect each other???

My children (both over the age of 18 now) have turned out to be respectful people. That's not to say they were always perfectly behaved growing up, and there was plenty of sibling rivalry. But frankly, I think that if one wants respect, one should model respectful behavior, and not just to one's elders. That means treating one's children with respect, too -- and by that, I don't mean giving in to their every demand, but rather treating them consistently, not capriciously. Similarly, one should speak respectfully about other people.
It's my understanding that Yaakov's preferential treatment of Yosef sprang from his love and grief for Rachel; also that Yosef's relating his dream of the sun, moon and stars bowing to him didn't improve his brothers' opinion of him. And while Reuven couldn't or wouldn't put a stop to the kidnapping by the other brothers, his actions did spare Yosef's life. It's interesting that the oldest was the one who wanted to attempt to change the outcome -- perhaps demonstrating that Reuven had achieved a degree of maturity that the others had not.
So when one's children are driving one crazy ("you like him better than you like me" & "no, she really is nicer to you and that's not fair") take heart -- if respect for others is inculcated, it will eventually show up -- although that may well take 18 years!

(11) Pat Zacks, July 25, 2013 10:05 PM

Humankind never changes

Re Joseph being hated by his brothers rather than their hating the father. It is no different today. A man cheats on his wife, so she hates (blames) the other woman rather than her husband. A well-liked teacher shows favoritism toward a particular student who then becomes the brunt of his peers' harassment. Apparently displaced anger is easier. It's easier to be angry with "the other guy" than with someone we love and/or wish to feel good about. So, along with teaching our children to respect us, we should somehow teach them how to decide toward whom they REALLY should direct their sense of unjustness. Perhaps we should teach them to think things through before "selling" their falsely perceived enemies into modern day "slavery."

(10) Joshua, July 25, 2013 9:23 PM


The needs to be a demonstration of power: love for the truth and this clearly seen.

(9) Rachel, July 25, 2013 7:06 PM

Model it!

The answer is simple: model respectful behavior for your kids. If you treat your own parents and family members with respect, hold the door for people and say excuse me when you bump into someone, and then tell your kids you're doing it because you see value in the next person, they will grow up to be respectful as well.

"Do as I say, not as I do" never works. You can't just yell that you would have never said such a thing to your parents, you need to model the behavior you want them to emulate. Our children are often a mirror to our own behavior and it is often jarring to see them do something unpleasant and then to realize that they learned it from you!

Also, treat your kids with respect as well. Don't embarrass them in front of others, and when you must offer constructive criticism, do it quietly, respectfully and from a positive standpoint: "you're so special, it's not like you to do something like that."

*One caveat about respecting your kids - they shouldn't feel that they're on the same level as you. The respect you show them is the respect of one human being to another, in this case to a loved one/family member. But the respect they show you is because G-d said so in the Ten Commandments, and because you're one generation closer to receiving the Torah at Sinai, and have a lot more wisdom from a lot more life experience!

(8) Simi, July 25, 2013 7:04 PM

Respectful behavior must be taught

Definiyely start young if possible. How to speak respectfully is a set of cultural conventions, and it must be taught similarly to the ways we teach kids about other norms in this new world they've been born into.. Don't yell at your disrespectful child or show deep disappointment. Just say firmly and matter-of-factly, "We don't speak that way to a parent. You may say (fill in the blank)." After some period of time, you'll be able to say "We don't speak that way. Try again." Then later "we don't speak that way." Until ulimtately just a raised eyebrow will prompt the child to say it differently. I was told that there is an exception to this: if your child hits you, which is strictly prohibited by the Torah, the best thing to do is gasp in shock and say "a child may never hit a parent -- it is usser min haTorah". The added drama will help convey the seriousness of the matter. (Of course if you gasp in shock at every incident of spilled milk it won't be so effective.). I have followed it up with a time-out the same number of minutes as his/her age. Quite effectively, it put a stop to potching me.. This gives you an idea of a parenting technique regarding respectfulness that my parenting counselor taught me and which I have found to work very well. And be prepared to say these things every day if necessary. It will sink in over time but you must be persistent and patient. Hatzlochah. .

(7) Anonymous, July 25, 2013 6:01 PM

Jacob & Joseph are both wrong

Even though Jacob showed favoritism towards Joseph, he was at an age of accountability with a conscience to understand and feel for his brothers. How would you react if your parents made you a beautiful dream coat full of amazing colors, but no other sibling received one? Would you feel guilty of this favoritism or not? I feel that Jacob started the first mistake and Joesph took full advantage of it by showing up his brothers, so I feel they are both in the wrong.

(6) Anonymous, July 23, 2013 9:44 PM

A comment

In general I really enjoy this blog, this time I want to comment that it doesn't seem to me that the story about rav Chaim Kanievsky is 100% accurate. This answer just doesn't fit his style of answers. (I allow myself to say that, because rav Chaim himself said that there were so many stories about him that were not accurate. However, If you know the story first hand, then I apologize). In addition, we must remember that Yosef's brothers were very very holy and elevated people. It was not just "a fight". They really thought that Yosef deserved the death penalty, because of some reasons. We must remember that we can't even perceive their greatness.

(5) Sidney, July 23, 2013 4:25 PM

You Set an Example & Then Pray to G-d

There is no fool-proof method but you start as soon as the kid is born by setting an example.

You show respect for your parents/in-laws and speak respectfully about them if they are still around even if they are feeble or suffer from dementia.

You NEVER refer to your father as "My Old Man", etc.

You show respect to all the older people on the street or in Shul. You hold the door for them (unless they get to the door first and want to show that they are still capable of holding it for you).

You stand up at least once a day for your parents if you see them, as the Torah requires, and for in-laws.

Finally you pray to G-d that your efforts will be succesful.

(4) ross, July 22, 2013 3:34 PM

H-hi, s-s-son, h-how was your d-d-day?

The issue of Yosef, brothers and father was all orchestrated from above to get us to Mitzrayim...don't know how much we can really pick apart. It wasn't normal.
Concerning respect, don't be afraid of your kids, or their reactions to certain things, and don't be your kid's buddies. Be a back-boned father, but it must start very young. In America, it's much harder to have kids stand up for parents. Minhag hamedina-- it's the other way around. Consolation? Mashiach is so close!

(3) Alan S., July 22, 2013 9:58 AM

The brothers were right to be upset with a parent showing obvious preference to a sibling, or apparently greater love to a sibling. However, to 'hate' the parent is wrong nonetheless. One midrashic tale is that Moses spoke up on behalf of his half brother to Pharoah. Joseph did not compare to Moses in this regard. That is, perhaps the brothers did not witness Joseph speaking on their behalf to their father. Regardless, ideally, the brothers should not 'hate' Joseph, whether or not he spoke on their behalf.

(2) Anonymous, July 21, 2013 9:57 PM

I struggle with this question

I disagree that the question has not been asked simply because only in today's generation do children think of hating their parents. The question, why did they hate Yosef because his father showed him favortism, is still a valid question, without the part about why they didn't hate their father. Why was it Yosef's fault that his father showed him preferential treatment? It may not have been right for him to show that preference, but it simply was not right for them to hate at all. Yosef was their brother, and he loved them. There should have been no hatred. Why did they have to hate their brother?
Respect for parents, yes needs to start at a young age. It does need to begin with the parents being kind and caring with their children and meeting their needs, I think. Children have to see consequences of their disrespectful behavior and of their positive behavior. The question of which exact techniques of how to do this is very challenging for me to find the answer to.

Inbar, July 22, 2013 10:47 PM

easier to hate your competitor than the one whose love you want

It may seem strange that the brothers hated Josef. But they were older than he was, and already had to share their father's love with many others. And now here came Josef, and suddenly he was the most important and most loved son, and they were 'also present'. Is it that strange that they felt he had stolen their father's love from them? And that when he made things worse by passing on negative tales about them, they did not want to have him in their lives?

leah, July 25, 2013 11:53 PM

envy is understandable but needs to be overcome.

Everybody could learn something from this: the father should not brag of one child to the detriment of others, Joseph could have shown more modesty, and the brothers need more self control, to put it mildly.

(1) Anonymous, July 21, 2013 12:37 PM

Teaching Respect

Actions speak louder than words. Children need to see kindness and caring within families.

Alan S., July 21, 2013 12:53 PM

While you are 1000% correct, in the end, it may not matter if a child has their own concept, however distorted or dysfunctional, of what is right or wrong.


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