I get the babycenter emails every week on milestones and typical stuff, and I really love this latest one about respect. We work a LOT on respect around here- I think it's one of the most important things you can teach a small child. It doesn't magically appear when they go to school or get a job, and if they aren't modeled it, they aren't going to display it. Manners matter. Respect matters. Do you say please and thank you to your kids? Do they hear you being respectful to friends and family? Even if you think they're too young to understand, they're always listening and some of their first words are going to be things they've heard you say.
Although this email was based on three year olds, I think it works really well for kids even as young as the Pink Ladies (18 months- 2 years).
(ganked shamelessly from babycenter.com....)
What you can do
Demonstrate respectful behavior. "We don't generally give our children the kind of respect that we demand from them," says Jerry Wyckoff, a psychologist and the coauthor of Twenty Teachable Virtues. "We get confused because often, our upbringing makes us equate respect with fear. 'I really respected my father because I knew he'd hit me if ... ' That's not respect — that's fear." Instead, begin by listening. It can be hard to wait patiently for a preschooler to have her say, but it's worth it. Get down on her level, look her in the eye, and let her know you're interested in what she's telling you. It's the best way to teach her to listen to you just as carefully.
Teach polite responses. Your preschooler can show caring and respect for others through good manners. As soon as she can communicate verbally, she can learn to say "please" and "thank you." Explain that you'd rather help her when she's polite to you, and that you don't like it when she orders you around. Again, being respectful yourself works better than lecturing. Say "please" and "thank you" regularly to your preschooler (and others), and she'll learn that these words are part of normal communication, both within your family and in public.
Avoid overreacting. If your preschooler calls you a "stupid-head," try not to get upset (after all, you know you're not a stupid-head). A child who wants to provoke a reaction will endure almost any unpleasantness just to get a rise out of you. Instead, get face to face and say quietly but firmly, "We don't call each other names in our family." Then show her how to get what she wants by being respectful: "When you want me to play with you, just ask me nicely. Say, 'Daddy, I want you to come and have a tea party with me right now.'"
Expect disagreements. Life would be much easier if our kids always happily complied with our requests, but that's not human nature. Try to remember that when your preschooler won't do your bidding, she isn't trying to be disrespectful — she just has a different opinion.
Teach her that she'll fare better if she can learn to stop expressing herself disrespectfully ("You never take me to the park, you bad mommy!") and instead learns to put a positive spin on her requests ("Can we please go to the park after the grocery store?").
Set limits. "One of the best ways to demonstrate respect is to be both kind and firm in your discipline," says Nelsen. "Being kind shows respect for your child, and being firm shows respect for what needs to be done." So if your preschooler throws a fit in the supermarket, and none of your coping tactics work, what do you do? "Kindly but firmly take her out to the car, and sit and read a magazine until she's done," advises Nelsen. Then you can say calmly, "Now you're ready to try again," and return to the store. Gradually she'll learn that a temper tantrum doesn't alter the fact that the food shopping has to get done.
Talk it over later. Sometimes the best way to handle disrespectful behavior is to discuss it with your preschooler later, when you've both had a chance to cool off. You can validate her feelings and make your point by saying, "Honey, I could tell you were very upset. What do you think caused that? What ideas do you have to solve the problem? What would be a more respectful way to tell me how you're feeling?"
"If a child knows you're really curious about her thinking, it's amazing — she'll often come to the same conclusion you would," says Nelsen. "And children can do this from the time they're 4."
Praise respectful behavior. Reinforce your preschooler's impromptu displays of politeness as much as possible. But be specific. "The praise should describe the behavior in detail," Wyckoff emphasizes. "We tend to say, 'good girl,' 'good boy,' 'good job.'" Instead, say, "Thank you for saying please when you asked for a treat," or "Thank you for knocking before you came in." Be explicit, and your child will quickly learn that her efforts are worthwhile and appreciated.
I love the idea of being specific in the praise- it's a pet peeve of mine when I hear people say "be a good boy today..." My philosophy is that the child IS a good boy. Sometimes their behavior stinks real bad and needs serious adjustment, but I try never to tie the essence of good or bad into the behavior. You are NOT a bad boy. You're angry right now and we need to work on your attitude, but I know that you can choose to have good behavior...