Be respectful--What does that really mean?

Our kids get conflicting messages about respect. We see many sitcoms on television, where the show's child stars are considered funny when they make a wisecrack or speak back to their parents or teachers. It is always funny when we are not on the receiving end of the comment!

So, when we say be respectful, but we have laughed at a similar situation on the TV, what message are our children getting? Now, I enjoy the same sitcoms you do, but how do we stop our children from getting into trouble because they are modeling humor that is acceptable on TV?

In our current Remembrance Day Assembly, our students were coached by all teachers that this was not an assembly to clap or cheer. We were showing our respect by listening to the poems, songs, speeches by looking at the presenters, nodding our head when we heard something that we want to affirm, and sitting with our body parts facing the action. It was a touching and heartwarming feeling in the gym. This behavior was appropriate for this type of assembly, and very different from the pep rally. All the children got that, and no one was unprepared for the expectations of this assembly.

We need to explain what behaviors fit in different situations.  For instance, be respectful might look like this:

Have your child practice looking people in the eye when they are talking. Practice an introduction with a handshake, and the phrase, "Hello. I am ____" Make note of when you see someone being respectful. "Martin is being respectful when he waits for a break in the conversation before asking his question." "Jayne is angry, but she is asking for a break instead of yelling."

Role play a disagreement. Have cue cards on the wall that show how to disagree respectfully. It helps if you have photos of faces or body stances that illustrate less threatening looks.

"I understand how you feel, but I see it this way."
"I disagree, because . . . "
"That is not what I think."
" I'm confused because the way it happened is . . . "
"I think I need some time to cool off before we settle this."

This is especially important for children with Aspergers', or with developmental delays. Those social cues are ways that integrate our children more successfully. We do them a disservice if we expect them to know what "be respectful" is supposed to look like. This is coaching--break the step down, practise it, and then apply it to different situations.

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