Teach Tweens to Have Respect

We all want our kids to respect us as well as other people in their lives. Find out what exactly is respect, why it is important, and steps you can take to teach your kids to have respect.

Tween and mom. Tween is being twirrled.

Teaching respect is not easy. Most tweens probably can’t even tell you what respect means. We have high hopes and expectations for respect, but we probably don’t know exactly how to go about teaching our kids to have respect.

What is Respect?

What exactly is respect? When we ask our children to have respect for someone or something, what exactly are we asking of them?

The Oxford Dictionary has a lot of information on the word respect. Here are some words and phrases that stand out:

  • Agree to recognize and abide by.
  • Feeling or showing deference.
  • Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.
  • Avoid harming or interfering with.
  • A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

So when we ask our kids to “show respect” or “have respect” for us, teachers, coaches, rules, peers, etc., we are asking a lot of them.

We are asking them to recognize and abide by rules and social constructs. We are asking them to show proper deference.

We are asking them to consider the feelings, wishes, rights, and traditions of others. We then ask them to be okay with those things–not that they have to agree with them, but recognize that there are differences there and it is okay.

We are asking them to avoid harming or interfering with others.

We are also asking them to admire those people.

Why is Respect Important?

When you look deeper into what respect really means and the many layers there, you can start to see how powerful respect can be within a community. Imagine if everyone had respect for everyone else.

If we had full respect, as outlined above, for each other, our communities would be a lot more harmonious.

How to Teach Kids Respect

I am pretty sure every generation has had the following said about them, “Kids these days have no respect.”

Every group of young tweens and teens have been accused of being disrespectful by an older generation.

As parents of the current “kids with no respect”, we can sit back and wonder how on earth we go about teaching our children to have respect.

This is indeed an overwhelming prospect. And for good reason. “Respect” is a word loaded with many, many virtues. It is not simple. You can’t just sit down one afternoon and teach respect like you might have sat down and taught how to count to ten.

It is a process. There are many steps to follow. Here are some things to do as a parent to teach your preteen to have respect.

Model Respect

Children learn how to behave from their parents. That isn’t so say they are never influenced by peers, media, or other adults in their lives, but their first teacher is you.

From a young age, your child is learning how to do everything by watching and listening to you. Parents remain the primary influence over their children until the teen years. You have a long time to be a good example to your children.

The way you treat your waiter, your neighbor, your friends, that jerk who cut you off, the solicitor, and even your children will model to them what respect is and isn’t.

Put all effort into making sure you are modeling what respect truly is. Look to yourself first. Are there things you need to change? We want to be good role models as parents.

Part of modeling respect will be to apologize when you make a mistake. It is okay to admit that you didn’t handle something appropriately and ask for forgiveness for that.

As children get older, they can sniff out hypocrisy. “Do as I say and not as I do” is not something they will respect, or admire. If you want your child to respect you, they need to have an admiration for you (as is outlined in the definition of respect). Give them an example they will want to emulate.

Build a Relationship

Along that line, work to build a relationship with your child. If they are going to admire you, they will need to know you. Remember the definition that stated: “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”

Your child will need to know those things about you and your life. Share what is going on with you.

Spend time together. Make memories together.

This doesn’t mean you are your child’s buddy who lets them get away with everything (more on that below). Get tips on the balance here: How To Be an Authoritative Parent

Do Not Take Disrepect Personally

Your tween will definitely be disrespectful at times. She will talk back. She will test boundaries. She will roll her eyes and sigh. She will get a grumpy look on her face.

Do not take it personally. It isn’t about you. If you take it personally, you will respond emotionally, and that never goes well. If you find yourself flaring up, take a step back before responding to the disrespect.

Calm your emotions before you respond.

This is a great time to model behavior! You can tell your tween that her behavior was disrespectful and that you need some time to decide how to handle that.

If you respond when you are upset, you likely will not model appropriate behavior.

Teach Kids to Think and Care About Others

Part of respect is to have a “Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.”

If our children are going to do that, we have to teach them that other people matter. Even if we have different opinions or preferences, we still matter.

>>>Read: Teaching Children that Other People Count

When your child does something that can or did hurt someone else, even you, talk to them about it. Ask them how they would feel if it had happened to them. Ask them how they think the other person felt.

Help children learn that their actions and words have an impact on others. Teach them that other people have feelings and that their feelings do matter.

Introduce the golden rule. We want to treat others how we want to be treated. Even better, we will follow the platinum rule and treat others how they want to be treated.

Teach Kids to Consider Other Points of View

Along this same line, help children to try to see things from the view point of others. Disrespect can come because our child felt hurt or slighted. If we teach them to consider why the other person may have done what they did, it can help them to take a step back before reacting.

It is also helpful for our children to recognize and accept the weaknesses and limitations of others. Maybe that coach is super unorganized, so they just didn’t get things together in time. Does that make the result less painful? No, but it doesn’t mean it was intentional.

Doing volunteer work can greatly help our children to see and consider the point of view of other people and develop empathy. They learn that other people have needs. You also just can’t help but love the people you serve, so serving others will help them to look outside themselves and have a love for others.

Allow Consequences to Happen

Part of respect is a “Feeling or showing deference.” If we want our children to show respect to us, teachers, coaches, the law, etc., we cannot save them from the consequences.

If your child doesn’t turn a paper in and their grade suffers because of it, do not stomp into the teacher’s classroom and let them have it.

There are consequences for actions. I hope by the time your child is a tween, you have made that clear already. You want toddlers to know consequences are real. If not, make it clear now.

>>>Read: Why You Need to Allow Kids to Make Mistakes

With the example of the teacher above, let your child work to resolve it. Have your child speak to the teacher and see if there can be extra work done to make up for the lost points. If things aren’t going well after your child has put in effort, then step in. Give your child the chance first.

If your child is forced to experience consequences for actions, your child will show some deference.

>>>Read: Benefits of Teaching Kids to Deal With Consequences

Require Personal Responsibility and Accountability

This ties in with the above section. Make sure your child is responsible and accountable for his actions. If your child makes a mistake, it is your child’s job to work to fix the mistake. It isn’t someone else’s problem.

One year, Kaitlyn and McKenna broke a window on our home. They were playing soccer and kicking the ball toward each other toward the windows.

They had been told not to do that. They had been told which direction to play soccer in the yard so direct kicks would not go to the windows. They shattered a window.

We let them know that they would be responsible for splitting the cost of replacing the window. After a week or so, Kaitlyn’s friends started to ask her if her parents had “caved yet” on the window. They were sure we would change our minds and she wouldn’t have to pay to replace the window.

She knew differently. They both paid. A lesson was learned that will not be forgotten.

Even if an event is an “accident”, someone has to cover the consequence. If you caused it, it is your job to rectify it, even if you didn’t mean to.

This doesn’t have to apply to something as large as a broken window. If your child makes a mess, teach them to clean it up. Someone has to do it. Respecting others is not expecting them to do it all for you.

Is it usually easier to just clean up the mess yourself? Yes! But again, we want our kids to learn to be responsible.

When your child has personal accountability, your child will be more likely to “Agree to recognize and abide by” the rules.

Teach Your Child Respectful Ways to Behave

We often put unrealistic expectations on our kids and expect them to just know the right way to respond to a situation. We want them to handle it the right way.

Our kids are amazing. They learn a lot during childhood simply by observing–including how to speak an entire language.

Some things just need to be taught. Sometimes we need to correct a behavior and let them know the way they handled a situation was not respectful. Children don’t automatically know the norms. The concept of respect can seem ambiguous.

We need to have realistic expectations and know we will need to talk to them about their behavior. We need to correct it and tell them what they need to do next time.

Praise Respectful Behavior

Consequences enable there to be teaching moments with disrespectful behavior. We also want to make sure we reinforce positive behavior.

Praise respectful behavior when you see it. Tell your child you like how they handled the situation. Tell them you appreciated their good manners. Tell them you are proud of how they had patience in that hard situation.

Praise the good things in your child’s behavior. Acknowledgment of respectful behavior will help your child know that it was the correct way to respond in those scenarios. It will also help your child feel motivated to do it again.


These resources can help you to teach your child to have respect for others, including mom, grandma, teachers, coaches, and friends. Working on respect with your tween will set a strong foundation for when your child is a teenager.

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