A+ Advice for Parents

Teach Daughter Respect by Showing Her Respect

Q: Over the holidays, my sister shocked me by saying, "Your daughter doesn't show respect because you don't respect her." It's hard when she and her friends are snarky and so into themselves. How do you teach a fifth-grader respect?

A: By modeling respect daily, says Dr. Jane Bluestein, a New Mexico educator and parenting coach.

"A respectful person practices the golden rule: treating others as they wish to be treated," she says.

Bluestein says that while it's important to teach the concept of respect, your sister has a point.

"Kids learn respect when we show them what it looks like," she says.

If your daughter behaves in a way that feels disrespectful, set a boundary and ask for the behavior you want instead, Bluestein advises.

"Saying 'Let's continue this conversation when you are willing to do so without yelling' is far more instructive than labeling the behavior as disrespectful," she says.

Bluestein, author of "The Parent's Little Book of Lists: Do's and Don'ts of Effective Parenting" (Health Communications Inc., 1997), suggests the following strategies:

-- Use language, words and tone of voice that would be acceptable to you if your daughter were speaking to you.

-- Model "please" and "thank you." If someone says, "Thank you," say, "You're welcome." Don't say, "Hey, no problem!"

-- Make eye contact when your daughter is talking to you. Listen. Make an effort to really hear and appreciate what she is saying.

-- Value her need for privacy. Knock before entering her room. Don't open her mail or email; don't listen in on her phone conversations; don't hover on her social media accounts. (Exceptions are prior agreements in which your daughter knows her communications might be monitored or instances in which her safety might be threatened.)

-- Give your daughter space to have different opinions and preferences than you or other family members.

-- Ask your daughter before using or borrowing something of hers.

-- Respect her need for competence and autonomy. Help her explore options and potential outcomes, rather than solving her problems. If your daughter is struggling with something and is in no danger of getting hurt, hurting anyone or ruining something valuable, ask her if she wants help before you step in to fix the problem.

-- Allow her to respond to situations differently than you would without criticizing, shaming or ridiculing her.

-- Call her what she wishes to be called. Resist names or nicknames that embarrass her or that she feels she has outgrown.

-- Introduce your daughter when you encounter someone who hasn't met her. When you meet a grown-up friend with a child along, say hello to the child as well as the adult.

-- If you witness her or her peers behaving disrespectfully to others, give them a reminder by saying, "We don't use those words." Or you might say, "Let's try this again without the attitude." This gives her important feedback.

Respect is one of the six pillars (along with trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship) of the popular "Character Counts" program adopted by many schools and youth organizations. To find who's using it in your community, go to charactercounts.org.

(Do you have a question about your child's education? Email it to Leanna@aplusadvice.com. Leanna Landsmann is an education writer who began her career as a classroom teacher. She has served on education commissions, visited classrooms in 49 states to observe best practices, and founded Principal for a Day in New York City.)

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