[This post originally appeared on girlscouts.org]
While respect should be second nature to us (Aretha made darn sure we knew how to spell it and practice it), there seems to be a major deficit of it in our world today. From mean tweets to cliquish behavior on the playground, respect is plainly overdue for a comeback. The good news is that you can play a big role in starting a respect revolution just by modeling respect yourself and teaching your girl to follow suit.
Here are 7 simple ways you can teach your girl to be more respectful today:
1. Listen and be present
If someone else is speaking, give them the courtesy of listening to and thinking about what they’ve said before responding, forming your own opinions, or dismissing theirs. Your girl may not agree with what’s being said, and that’s absolutely OK (and sometimes important!) for her to express, but she should wait her turn, pay attention, and avoid jumping to conclusions. You never know, what someone says could surprise her!
2. Be thoughtful of others’ feelings
Talk to your girl about how she might feel angry, sad, or even embarrassed if someone rolled their eyes at one of her ideas or talked over her when she was trying to speak. It might feel even worse to hear that someone was calling her names or making fun of her. Since she doesn’t want to feel that way, she should do her best to ensure others aren’t made to feel that way either.
3. Acknowledge others and say thank you
If your girl did half the work on a science project, but her partner took all the credit, how would she feel? Probably pretty upset. Similarly, if she made a gift for another girl in school, and that friend never said thank you, she might feel confused or think the gift wasn’t very good. Letting others know that their efforts matter and thanking them for their time, work, and/or thoughtfulness doesn’t need to take more than a few seconds, but it makes a big difference.
4. Address mistakes with kindness
Everyone, even your girl, makes mistakes! Have her think back to a time she messed up a little. Would she want to be called out and humiliated in front of her friends, or would she have felt better if someone pulled her aside, gently told her about the mistake, and then helped her to improve next time? We’re all human and we’re all going to need a helping hand now and then. Helping others grow from their mistakes with dignity is just the decent thing to do.
5. Make decisions based on what’s right, not who you like
Sometimes it might feel easier for your girl to go along with the crowd and either mimic the behavior of her friends or choose their ideas over those of others out of a sense of loyalty or to gain favor with more popular kids, but that’s not smart or fair. Talk to your girl about weighing the pros and cons of the choices she makes in her daily life, about thinking about what’s right, and what will lead to the best outcomes for all involved. Sometimes it takes guts to stand up and support less popular views, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Not only do people’s feelings get hurt when we play favorites, but we can sometimes make poor decisions that have even bigger consequences.
6. Respect physical boundaries
Everyone’s body is their own, and everyone has the right to decide the level and type of physical contact they’re comfortable with. For instance, some people love to be greeted with hugs, some people don’t, and that’s OK! Talk to your girl about the importance of respecting people’s personal preferences and how she should insist on others respecting her boundaries as well.
7. Live and let live
In this great big world of ours, there are a billion different ways to live life, and that’s what makes life interesting! As long as everyone is being respectful and no one is hurting anyone else, it’s important to take a step back and accept that there’s no one right way to exist on this planet.
And finally, how can your girl get more respect in her life? Talk to her about the word integrity. Someone who has integrity is honest, is true to their word, does the best they can, and owns up to their shortcomings without making excuses, covering it up, or passing the blame onto someone else. Nobody’s perfect, but when your girl lives her life with integrity, she’ll earn others’ respect and be able to feel good about who she is as a person—and she’ll make others feel better in the process.