Recently I wrote about respectful parenting. Today I am offering some specific techniques that will assist you.

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Recently I wrote about respectful parenting. Today I am offering some specific techniques that will assist you.

Listen: Of course you want your children to listen to you. Therefore you must listen to your children when they speak to you. Stop what you’re doing and give them your full attention. Acknowledge that you’ve heard them even if you can’t solve the problem or grant a request. Then it follows that your children will do the same to you.

Give five-minute warnings: Most parents expect children to come when called. Typically, going from play time to the dinner table or from the breakfast table to the car is difficult for most children. You can teach children to respond respectfully to such transitions by giving fair warnings of at least five minutes and escorting children respectfully from one activity to the next.

Establish rules: All families have rules. For example, no food in the living room; wear seats belts; no hitting; no one leaves the kitchen after dinner until the dishes are done. No matter what your rules, teach them consistently being firm and kind. Model what you expect and give clear directions. Understand that toddlers test rules and teens may rebel against them; your job also is to respect the characteristics of each developmental age.

Teach self-help skills: Between ages 3 and 5, children need to learn to dress themselves, put toys away, brush teeth and use the toilet. Your job is to teach these skills in small steps. Compliment efforts while expecting the child to master each task.

Speak respectfully: Talk to your children in a way that’s respectful; being neither wimpy nor harsh. When children talk back, say, “Can you say that same thing but in a nicer way?” If the child can’t or won’t, you should tell the child what words would be appropriate. Another approach is to say, “That’s back talk; it’s not respectful. In our family we don’t talk that way.” If the child is emotional and out of control, say, “The conversation is over for me.”

Expect children to comply: All parents want children to comply with their requests. Let’s say you’re taking your preschool-age daughter on an airplane trip. You likely expect her to talk quietly and wear her seat belt. Before your trip, lay out these expectations and then play them out using dining-room chairs and dolls. By doing so, your child is more likely to comply with your requests.

Drive home the importance of personal safety: If you tell your preschooler to hold your hand while walking down the street, your child should do so. If you tell your teenager to call when he arrives at a football game, he should do so. Your children will respect such requests when you communicate that you’re asking them to do so, not because you want to control their every move but because you love them desperately. Say your job is to monitor their whereabouts for safety’s sake.

Teach and model your values: If you value religion, sports, tidiness, academics and/or the environment, you’ll likely hope that your children will hold similar values. Rather than shove these values down your children’s throats which is disrespectful, speak to your values and model them. Positive results are likely to follow.

Honor personal space and property: If you need a pencil and you know your child has one in his backpack, ask for it. Then it follows that when your child needs something from your wallet or purse, he’ll ask. Offer respectful reprimands. “I won’t allow you to jump on the sofa.”

Many little acts of respect toward children build their respect for you. For more insights read, “Respect: An Exploration,” by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (Perseus Books, $17.50).

Jan Faull, a specialist in child development and behavior, answers questions of general interest in her column. You can e-mail her at or write to: Jan Faull, c/o Families, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at