You asked

How can I teach my child to be respectful of others?

At two years old, respect is a little difficult for your child to master. That’s mainly because your child does not yet have the language skills to say things in a polite and respectful manner. For instance, your child cannot explain that while you want him or her to take a bath, he or she would rather continue to play with his or her toys. That usually means that the response is more like ‘I hate you!’

While there’s not much you can do immediately to make your child more respectful, there are ways you can make an impact now, to make your child more respectful in the long term.

First and foremost, make sure that you are respectful – to your child, and to others. Don’t confuse respect with fear though – if your child is afraid of you because you may give him or her a hiding, that’s not the same thing. Rather listen while your child has his or her say, get down to his or her level, and take their feelings or wants into account when making a decision.

Don’t get overly hurt by disrespectful responses. If your child does say he or she hates you when you don’t let him or her do something, understand that it’s a response to the situation, not to you directly. Simply respond by saying that you don’t talk that way in your family, and carry on as normal. Do the same if your child hits you out of frustration.

Start teaching politeness early on. As soon as your child can talk, he or she should be learning to ask for things by saying please, and to say thank you when receiving something. The best way to reinforce this is by using the ‘magic words’ yourself, when talking to your child and others.

Set limits, make them clear, and enforce them. Your child will be much less likely to disrespect you if he or she has a fixed routine, and knows the rules. Your child will begin to accept these as the way things are, and not something that can be rebelled against, or changed at will.

Teach your child that the old saying ‘you catch more flies with honey,’ still applies. Make a point of responding when your child asks for something in a polite and respectful way, and correcting him or her when he or she demands or disrespects you.

Last, but not least, make sure that you praise your child when he or she exhibits respectful behaviour. Making a big fuss over remembering to say please and thank you, or being polite in general, will make your child far more likely to do it again next time, since children love recognition of their successes.

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