tip#43 - The Language of Respect: 11 Ways to Build a Culture of Respect in Families and Classrooms

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Published on February 10, 2014 by Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D. in The Moment of Youth

  1. Words of Encouragement:

    Instead of complaining when teens feel discouraged, let them know how much you admire their ability to overcome tough challenges and recover from apathy or failure.“I know things can be difficult, but I really admire how you reach deeply into yourself to find the right answers. I want you to know I’m always here for you.”

  2. Words of Grace:

    Instead of blaming, always separate an adolescent from his or her behavior. Forgive them for mistakes or misjudgments. Give them a chance to get it right. “You are not the same as your mistake. I know you to be a kind, caring human being. I forgive you and I’m here to help you learn from this setback.”

  3. Words of Guidance:

    Don’t just hope teens will find their ways. Encourage them to ask questions and give them words of guidance. “Your questions help me know and understand you better. Please never think you have a dumb question. I want to help whenever I’m able.”

  4. Words of Respect:

    Rather than a narrow focus on academic successes, build a climate of respect in your classroom and family.“While I care about your grades and other external measures of success, it’s also important to have a climate of mutual respect here. I plan to work hard to see that each of our opinions, thoughts, and feelings are respected.”

  5. Words of High Expectations:

    Rather than being discouraged when teens don’t show their best abilities, encourage them to envision and pursue goals that fuel their passion. “I want you to achieve your potential, in whatever way you choose. What goals do you most want to achieve?”

  6. Words of Hope:

    Instead of helping teens get through another difficult day, help them envision a better tomorrow. “You have such a kind heart and helpful way with people. Those abilities will see you through many of life’s challenges.”

  7. Words of Love:

    Don’t just speak to the minds of teenagers. Speak to their hearts. Demonstrate how much you love and care for them every day.

  8. Words of Relationship:

    Use words that build connection through the sharing of feelings. Help teens “feel felt” by you. “I want to know and understand how you feel. Can you tell me?”

  9. Words of Understanding:

    Instead of making assumptions, discover a young person’s perspective through empathy. “I want to understand your perspective. Please tell me what you think and what led you to that conclusion.”

  10. Words of Unity:

    Shed the attitude of “it’s my way or the highway,” and foster a culture of collaboration and cooperation. “I’m your parent (or teacher), but that doesn’t mean I have all the answers. I respect your role as part of this family (or classroom).”

  11. Words of Accountability:

    Being respectful means holding everyone accountable. Instead of allowing disrespectful behavior, help young people stay on track. “How you just behaved was unkind and disrespectful. How could you have handled that differently?”

Walking Our Talk

While language is critical to building a culture of respect in families and classrooms, it can’t stop there. It is only when we practice these eleven categories of words with everyone in our lives that we truly learn to “walk our talk.” Children and teens know the difference!

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