I demand your respect!

August 17th, 2013 @   -  No Comments

Respect is something that all human beings value. No one wishes to be disrespected. But not everyone is respectful or respected. The important questions are: Does everyone deserve respect? Why are some people respected while others aren’t? Can someone demand respect from people? And how can we raise children who are respectful and respected?

Understanding respect

Showing respect towards others is a right we must fulfill. We don’t have to love someone in order to respect them. Loving others is a choice, but showing respect is an obligation.

However, there is a difference between respecting an individual and showing respect. When we value someone and hold them in high esteem we respect them. When we respect someone, it is usually for their character, achievement, etc. We actually admire something about the person and hold them in high regard and therefore show them respect. However, showing respect does not necessitate having respect for a person. You can still treat someone in a respectful manner by being polite and kind with them but you do not necessarily have to hold them in high esteem. If someone does not behave with the best of character, you can still treat them respectfully. There is no need to be disrespectful and behave the way they do. If you are disrespectful towards others, others are less likely to respect you. If this is understood and practiced by the parents, children will learn it from them.

Who is respected?

Kids need guidelines to help them know who to respect and look up to versus who to be polite to but not necessarily respect. Sometimes children get confused, especially under the influence of their peers who may look down on someone for no good reason. They may demean someone who prefers to read versus play, or someone who will not break the rules. They may look down on someone who does the right thing whereas the ones who break the rules are considered “cool”. Children need to learn from a young age the criteria by which someone is respected and held in high esteem. If the adults respect others just for their beauty, money or another superficial criterion, chances are children are going to have a superficial view of who deserves respect. But if someone is respected for their character, knowledge, or hard work, children will learn the important things to value in people and in life.

Some people try to demand respect by using fear, but that is never the result. “There is a secret pride in every human heart that revolts at tyranny. You may order and drive an individual, but you cannot make him respect you.” (William Hazlitt)  If someone does not have the right characteristics that warrant respect, s/he will not be able to gain it.

Explain to children what is considered respectful and disrespectful

Sometimes, children say or do disrespectful things but are unaware of it. Ways of communicating respect can be obvious or subtle and may differ from culture to culture. For some, it is mandatory to kiss an elder’s hand to show respect and others require a bow. It can also be the terminology used when addressing someone, or actions such as giving someone your seat or waiting for others to eat before you start. Teaching children the verbal and non-verbal ways of showing respect allows for better application.

If your child behaves in a disrespectful manner, let him/her know that it is unacceptable. The seriousness in how you address the issue will give it the weight it deserves. Be firm in this matter. If disrespect is overlooked a few times or it is treated lightheartedly, it may escalate later and become something you cannot control.

Show respect towards each other

Set rules between family members that will encourage everyone to treat each other respectfully. Be the first to set the example for your children. If you don’t want them to demean each other, do not demean them. No name-calling, being mean, or putting each other down. Family members should be respected first and foremost at home. “When Fatima (RA) came to visit the Prophet (PBUH) he got up to welcome her, took her by the hand, kissed her and made her sit where he was sitting; and when he went to visit her, she got up to (welcome) him, took him by the hand, kissed him, and made him sit where she was sitting” (Sunan Abudawud). This is how they honored and respected each other.


If children are not treated respectfully at home, they may think of themselves as undeserving of respect and may demean themselves. They must learn that demeaning themselves or compromising their principles in order to get people’s approval or to get something they want will not get them respect. It is important for them to learn not to demean themselves to anyone but God (demeaning oneself and showing humility are two different things).




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