Neal and Diane Arnold
Respect and honor are at the core of healthy family relationships and harmony. Our family members know when they are respected, but they also know when they are practicing respect in return.
Respect is holding another in esteem or honor; or showing consideration or regard for another. We are obviously all different, but respect/honor requires us to value these differences. We must want the best for others around us. We are not stronger if we believe when others succeed, it will somehow diminish us.
The guidelines for family and relationship respect are clear. In all our families, what we think is ok has usually been spoken out loudly, shared often, and demonstrated in our actions most every day. Sometimes, these guidelines are silently in place. However, too frequently, there is not a good system for respect to flourish in our homes.
In order to develop a pattern of respect in any relationship, open communication needs to occur. The attributes of being honest, straightforward, and trustworthy need modeled by all family members. We all want permission to make mistakes or even to fail when trying to establish a culture of respect.
As interaction develops and matures, people will learn to relate to each other differently. When someone in a family sees another member trying to practice respect — encouragement and praise should be the result. We have written another article for establishing family meetings that would be helpful in building these guidelines.
Let us talk about a few specific measures we can implement to create an environment of respect and honor:
- Respect is a Two-Way Street
We all need to show our family members we care about their feelings. We need to sympathize with each other’s needs, comfort our fears, and clearly explain what we are doing when it concerns them. Children who grow up in supportive families are more likely to develop healthy self-respect — which encourages them to believe in their abilities and make good choices for themselves later in life.
Respecting each other means watching what you speak over each other. Ikea asked a group of school-age children to talk to two plants in very different ways: one nicely and one with a slew of bullying, hateful comments. For 30 days, two plants were kept in identical conditions with the same amount of light, water and fertilizer, were displayed at a school in Dubai. Children were encouraged to record both negative and positive comments including playground taunts. The verbal bullying and “sweet nothings” were regularly spoken to the plants using a computerized voice. At the end of the month, the plant that had been on the receiving end of the negative talk was visibly different, with drooping and dying leaves. Meanwhile, the plant which had been told nice things thrived. How can this be? If it matters to plants, think how much more it matters for human beings even the ones we love and live out our daily lives.
Honoring our family means we always want to speak life over them, their behavior, their bodies, their personalities and their spirit.
2. Set Rules and Boundaries for Respect
Rules are essential reminders to help us curb our erratic impulses. Family rules include things like — no name-calling or bad language, listening to what others have to say, not using someone’s belongings without asking and finding a respectful way to tell someone you are annoying them. We need to have consistent consequences when rules are broken — or they will not be meaningful. Similarly, compliment family members frequently when they follow the rules you have set.
Set reasonable boundaries and let family members know the expectations. If our families understand healthy boundaries and model them, we likely grew up with the ability to develop close, meaningful relationships. We probably felt more safe and secure. If our parents were not clear on what healthy boundaries entailed, chances are good we have been guessing our way through one disappointing relationship after another.
We can visualize a balanced boundary system as a line that separates two people. For a healthy relationship to occur, both have to take responsibility to come up to the line and do what they are both responsible for in the relationship. In a well-adjusted family, each person takes full responsibility for what belongs to them in order to make the relationship work properly. By using open communication about how you want boundaries in your family to change, along with lots of practice, you can learn how to build much healthier relationships that are respectful, safe and meaningful.
3. Practice Good Manners
Courtesy is the oil that makes everything run more smoothly. Hopefully, we all remember those “magical words” of please and thank-you we learned at a young age?
These phrases are outward expressions of kindness that help kids function in the world and learn to build respectful relationships. How about good table manners as a form of respect for others who are sharing your meal? Our family is still working on this one. We need to be careful to not hurry through meals and finish eating over the sink or on the run. Here are a few that may need to make the list in your own home:
- Express gratitude. For example, encourage family members to express their appreciation by saying or writing a prompt and personal thank you note for birthday gifts on special stationery or note cards. When in a hurry, we can even send an email to thank someone.
- Make your empathy visible. Ask questions such as, “How would you feel if someone pointed at you and started to laugh?”
- Praise good behavior. “Catch” them being polite.
- Show your disapproval and explain why. When family members disappoint us, they need us to tell them that we expect more from them and explain what “more” is.
- Help your children use words, not actions. Practice situations with people who struggle in this area. Show them how to respond calmly and firmly with words instead of actions.
- Be honest. While “fessing up” to misbehavior is sometimes difficult and painful for everyone, help your family to feel good about admitting doing something wrong.
4. Be a Role Model for Respect
Think about what happens when family sees disrespect as a habit. How our moms and dads treat each other helps define how our kids will behave with members of the opposite sex. Think about what we are modeling if we speak rudely to a waiter, or we exhibit unbridled road rage, or treat our own parents disrespectfully.
When kids toss their ice cream cups on the street or cover neighbors’ houses with toilet paper on Halloween, they have not learned the connection between respecting people and respecting their property. Emphasize elderly people deserve our respect because they have lived longer, worked hard, and have wisdom to impart. If a family member accidentally harm another’s property, have them write a note and offer to help fix the problem. Instead of enjoying his weekend with friends, we had a son cleaning up eggs on a neighbor’s house. Remember, developing, demonstrating and teaching good manners are lifelong lessons.
5. Mind the Media Messages
Disrespectful behavior seems to be commonplace today on TV, movies, the internet and many aspects of our culture. Putdowns, cursing, off-color jokes, and demeaning sexual or ethnic stereotypes should never be seen as funny or amusing. If you have young adults, you know it is a lot harder to protect kids today.
We can heighten their awareness, so they do not absorb other mindsets without questioning them. Speak up. Go ahead and comment on rude or intolerant actions or behavior. For example, “That man doesn’t respect his wife — that wouldn’t be acceptable behavior in our house.” Develop a standard of respect that transcends mixed messages they may be getting elsewhere.
Honor and respect once learned will pay a lifetime of dividends. Remember as Thomas Monson has said, “When we treat people merely as they are, they will remain as they are. When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they will become what they should be.”