I woke up this morning to see these thoughts from a friend of mine who is a school librarian.  What are your thoughts on teaching children respect?

Yesterday I had a conversation with a kiddo that led to some rather profound realizations. The child was frustrated because he’d gotten in trouble for disrespect. When I asked him about it, he said that he wasn’t aware he was being disrespectful. Further questioning led to him providing the following definition: Respect is treating others the way you want to be treated.

Sounds good, right? Except in this case, that led to the kid getting in trouble. He is a kiddo that wants to be able to joke around, not be taken too seriously, and have a rapport with someone that leads to banter. It’s the kiddo who, when asked to write similes, will write, “Mrs. A is as old as dirt,” or “My teacher is as mean as a starving T-rex.” These comments aren’t meant to be taken personally, and are his way of saying, “Hey, I like you as a person.” The problem is, not everyone is okay with those comments, and to the wrong adult, things like that come across as disrespectful.

That’s about when it occurred to me: We tell kids to be respectful, but we often forget to tell them two things: 1. What does respect look like to me? and 2. Respect looks different for each person, so you need to determine what their definition is very early on in your interactions with them.

I see a lot of posts complaining about kids these days not having respect. The thing is, they do have a lot of respect. It just LOOKS different. Just because a kid doesn’t meet your definition, doesn’t mean that they’re being disrespectful. As teachers, we’re told to reteach when a child has a behavior problem. I think, at least as far as respect is concerned, I will REDEFINE instead.

–Caroline Burkhart Askew

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