Skip to main content

How to teach a teen to have respect for others

Your teen is developing skills that will serve them well in the real world, but how do you teach concepts as big and significant as “respect”? Teaching teens to respect others is more than just blind obedience; it’s an exercise in discerning character and building genuine kindness.

Here are a few simple ways you can teach your teen to respect others and help prepare them to maneuver in the real world in productive ways.

Father and son having a discussion
Eric Audras/Getty Images

Show respect to teach respect

The single biggest thing you can do for your teen is to show the same respect you want them to give. Consider how you speak to your teen and if your words mirror the type of behavior you expect from your teen.

This could include modeling active listening skills, withholding interruptions and distractions to listen truly to what your teen is saying. Ensure that you show disagreement calmly and agree that sometimes people can disagree on issues without causing harm.

You should also practice apologizing for things that cause harm, yourself. For example, everyone gets angry, and we can’t always remain calm. Apologizing for losing your temper shows your teen that you take responsibility for your actions and models how they should behave in the future.

Expose your teens to new experiences

One of the best ways to help your teen learn the empathy they need to help them show respect is by volunteering. Get your teens involved in age-appropriate missions that benefit the community and show your neighbors, community members, and greater society that you care.

Ideally, these activities start as young as possible, but if your teen has never volunteered before, that’s OK. Just get them started with something they might be interested in. Loving the great outdoors? Schedule cleanup efforts. Want to be more involved in the school? Volunteer for school beautifications or collect school supplies — and get them involved.

You should also help introduce your teen to wide ranges of age-appropriate literature, with protagonists of different cultures, histories, and lifestyles. This helps your teen expand their capacity to understand others and could help translate into greater empathy and respect.

Focus on problem-solving

Children and teens aren’t always able to show respect because they don’t have the same experiences that we do. They could be focused on several activities at once and unable to listen to what we’re saying. They may not understand our point of view and miss how their words come across to us.

The first step is to remain calm and give your teen the benefit of the doubt. Were there reasons that they seemed disrespectful? Are they stressed from school or tired from a late night of studying? These factors can sometimes mean a misfire in communication.

Help your teen understand respect by remaining calm and working with them to problem-solve through the issue. Instead of saying, “Watch your tone,” which is vague, ask them to consider how to make their request differently.

Through this problem-solving process, your teen learns to listen to what others are saying and view something from multiple angles. They can use these problem-solving skills all their lives to negotiate with others and remain respectful even when making requests.

Use discipline to teach — not to punish

Discipline is designed to help teach your children real-life skills. Discipline your teen so that they will be guided to make better choices in the future. For example, if your teen uses a disrespectful tone, you may remove their devices for a set period of time. However, this should also accompany time to problem-solve and methods to help them make better decisions in the future.

It can be tough to make decisions about discipline in the heat of the moment. It’s best to take a moment to calm down and think it through. Once everyone is calmer and able to communicate, you can decide on a discipline route and talk through making better decisions.

Teens can learn to respect others

The teen years can be a trying time, but you can teach your teen what respect means. Model the behavior you want to see and avoid making decisions when you’re angry. Be willing to talk through your teen’s actions and help them problem-solve to make better decisions in the future.

Giving your teens the gift of experience can also help you teach respect. As they build their empathy skills, they’ll be more inclined to show respect to others. Take the long view, and you’ll be able to help your teen prepare for the future.

Mother and daughter having a discussion
Martin Novak/Getty Images

Editors' Recommendations

How much water should a 1-year-old drink? What you need to know
Here's how to keep your little human hydrated
Toddler drinking glass of water

The transition from baby food to solid food is an exciting one for parents and their children. Once your child has fully transitioned to eating solid foods, they must also drink enough liquids to balance their diet. Milk is likely still a huge part of your child's daily diet, and they are most likely drinking it more than water. Although milk is important for toddlers to drink to help with the development of their bones and teeth, they must also drink water. If you're wondering how much water should a 1-year-old drink, here's what you need to know.
How much water your child should drink

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 1-year-olds should drink 1 to 4 cups (8 to 32 ounces) of water per day and 2 to 3 cups (16 to 24 ounces) per day of whole milk.

Read more
What is a baby sprinkle (and how to plan a great one)
Why you should at least have a baby sprinkle even if you already have a child
Cake for a baby shower.

We all know the standard pregnancy celebrations. We've seen gender reveal photoshoots all over social media and have been invited or know someone who has gone to at least one baby shower. But what about when someone is having a second baby? Or is having the first girl after two back-to-back boys? Well, that's where having a baby sprinkle comes in handy. Whether it's been a few years since the last little one or you're having one of the opposite gender and only need a few items, here's why a baby sprinkle is the perfect way to welcome this new addition.
What is a baby sprinkle?

If you don't know anything about pregnancy parties, think of it in scientific terms. What is a shower versus a sprinkle when it rains? Not as much water for one as the other, right? Take that and apply it to a baby shower versus a baby sprinkle. Think of a baby sprinkle as that grocery trip where you only need the fillers, and you're not restocking the whole kitchen.
If you already have a baby
If you are parents to one child (or two or three), you probably have most of the stuff you need from the last child. But if there were items you wish you would have grabbed for the first one or you have a list of needs for this next baby, a sprinkle is the perfect forum to get those goods.
If it's been a few years since you've had a baby
Even if you already have a child, maybe this next one is a few years further away than you wanted or planned. A baby sprinkle is the best way to get those items you may have donated, lost, or broke with the first kiddo.
If you have only one gender but find out you are having the other
Have all boys? You will want a sprinkle to get some girl items. Have only girls? You might use a sprinkle to get at least one item that isn't pink. Not that certain colors are meant for boys or girls, but maybe you had a Minnie Mouse-themed nursery, and you'd like your first boy to have a new theme for their nursery.
Let's sprinkle the details
A baby sprinkle isn't going to be exactly like your baby shower. It's more of a low-key event, should be less stressful, and is less formal.

Read more
The feeling words all parents should teach their little ones
Help kids learn how to verbally express their emotions
Building with words asking about feelings

Emotions can run the gamut with kids. A child can be happy and content one minute and then be a puddle of tears the next. Managing emotions becomes increasingly difficult as kids get older. Feelings of frustration often erupt seemingly out of nowhere. Many times, a teen doesn't understand why feelings of anger take hold much like a toddler having a tantrum in public.

As adults, we recognize that feelings are complicated, but understanding them is vital. Feelings are an abstract concept for children. Take the answer to some common parent questions like, "How are you feeling?" or "How was your day?" Kids will typically respond with fine or OK, even if their body language and demeanor are saying something else. Teaching your child how to verbally express their emotions through the use of feeling words forms a firm foundation for emotional well-being.

Read more