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How to Teach Children to Respect Parents and Siblings

It's hard to imagine when you bring home a sweet new baby that in just a few years, she'll have the ability to talk back, slam doors and otherwise create utter chaos in your home. Yes, your kids know how to push your buttons -- and those of their siblings.

You and your family deserve to have a happy, peaceful home -- one based on mutual love, respect and kindness. "In building a loving bond within the family, your kindness and compassion toward your kids is critical," says Los Angeles- based child psychologist Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D., but "love is not only a feeling, it's an action."

Setting an Example

Monkey see, monkey do. Children often repeat the behaviors they witness. When parents show respect, kids are more likely to follow. Watch how you treat family members, but also consider how you treat those outside the family. Be friendly and polite to teachers and store clerks. Offer a kind word to the young girl delivering your fast food. Kids are watching and learning all the time.

"Kids learn from what you do. So be respectful whatever the predicament," says Reznick. "Your words are important, and yet your actions are even more important. If your son is screaming at your daughter, you screaming back telling him to quiet down doesn't work." Instead, go over to him, touch his shoulder, look him in the eye, and calmly ask him to lower his voice.

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One of the most important elements of respect is that of listening. When children feel heard and understood, they're less likely to act belligerently or bully one another.

Reznick says, "Consider how loving you are with your kids. Are you understanding of what they are going through? Active listening or repeating back to them what they have told you (either in their words or yours) is so helpful for your kids to know that you really understand them. You can still set clear boundaries or say 'no' to a request, but when they feel you appreciate their desires and concerns, it's often easier for them to accept the 'no.'"

Sincere Praise

Compliment kids when they get it right. Although correct behaviors probably seem obvious to you, kids are not always so aware. Dr. Sears suggests that by pointing out respectful behavior, you're almost guaranteeing a repeat performance. Kids yearn for our praise and approval, and when they understand the behaviors we're looking for, they're usually happy to oblige.

Offer specific praise, rather than a vague, "Good job." Say something like, "Thanks for opening the door for your sister and listening to her talk about her soccer game. She was so excited to talk to you. I think you made her day!"

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Working Together

Active families often keep a frantic schedule, rushing from one activity to another, without much time to talk to each other. This limited contact can lead to a lack of connection, which can lead to feelings of resentment, isolation and loneliness. Even your eye-rolling, gum-popping tween craves time with family. Clemson University Extension's report, "Building Family Strengths," suggests engaging in meaningful family activities in order to improve family unity. This means turning off the video games, pulling off the headphones and spending time together. Play board games, work in the yard or do a service project. Make time for family dinners and engage in lively, thoughtful conversations. When kids feel connected to their parents and each other, they're more likely to treat each other with kindness and respect.

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