Teach your children respect

It's up to parents to teach children to treat others with courtesy, says Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd.

When it comes to basic manners, like acknowledging others and treating them with respect, you can’t expect your children to know what to do without your help and supervision, says child and family psychologist Richard Weissbourd, lecturer at Harvard.

Video transcript

Kids who are disrespectful to their parents’ friends, and even if they are not disrespectiful — they don’t say rude things, they ignore their parents’ friends. Or their parents’ friends reach out to them in some ways, and they respond coldly or they withdraw or they just pretend it didn’t happen. And you know, I think these are situations where we need to have strong expectations of our kids. And by strong expectations, I think we should expect them to be civil and decent to our friends — just like we are civil and decent to their friends. And we should tell them that’s our expectation and if they don’t do it at some point they should to be punished for not doing it. Other generations of parents were much more mindful than we are of certain kinds of manners. And I am not talking about manners like where you put your hands on the dinner table, or where you place your fork, I am talking basic respect in your ongoing interactions with people. And in a way, I remember talking to a parent who grew up in the ’60s and she said you know “in the ’60s we thought manners were bourgeois and you know were something that were old and traditional, and part of the conservative culture. And then I discovered that if you don’t really focus on your kids having certain manners, they don’t develop certain manners.” And I know what she’s talking about — they don’t know that they have to be respectful and decent to people that they see on the street. And as parents, I was like — these are things that we need to be purposeful and intentional about. You know: this is the expectations in our family, that we are going to be respectful and decent to these people. I don’t mean that you always have to be warm and engaging to everybody but you have to express a minimal amount of decency and acknowledgement.

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