Raising a generation where disrespect is not tolerated

Dr Rosina McAlpine By Dr Rosina McAlpine

To give our children the best chance to succeed in the world, we need to give them the skills to help them interact and communicate with others in a caring and respectful way. Learning social skills that help children to nurture relationships will help them make friends and be loving members of their family and their community. Parents can teach their children these skills by being good role models and guiding them to change their behaviour whenever they behave in a way that harms others or themselves.

A child modeling their parents does not always have positive results. I am well aware of the cycle of violence – I grew up in a violent home. Hitting us was a behaviour my father learnt from his parents before him, and he didn’t know that it was wrong. Like many others, my Dad believed he was doing the right thing by being harsh in order to raise us to be good kids.

Thankfully, the cycle of violence stopped with me. To avoid repeating the patterns of my childhood, I’ve spent many years learning about good parenting, and would like to share a bit about how to make respect part of your parenting routine. We’ve all heard that violence starts with disrespect, and the Stop it at the Start campaign tells us that we can help prevent disrespect from becoming violence by encouraging positive behaviours in boys and girls from a young age.

Making respect part of your parenting routine

You might read this and think ‘We’re okay, this won’t happen to us. What happens in other people’s homes is none of my business’, or ‘I’m too busy for this. I’m already juggling so much trying to manage work and family.’ I completely understand – I’m a working mum too.

This campaign is all about giving busy parents like you and me the resources to raise happy and healthy children, who will make a positive difference in the world. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time and can be part of your daily routine. Here are some examples:

  • If your son is pulling his sister’s hair, instead of condoning it by saying ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘just don’t go near him’, intervene and help your son to develop care and empathy for his sister and learn respect. In this way you not only help your son, you also help your daughter understand that she should not tolerate disrespectful behaviour.
  • If you suspect your teenage son is being disrespectful to others or you hear him making sexist jokes, instead of ignoring it in the hope that ‘they’ll work it out for themselves’ or brush it off as ‘just having fun’, start the conversation so you can help him become the loving man you want him to be.

Ongoing learning through many conversations

Effective parenting is all about having ongoing conversations with your children and providing consistent messages. In the same way that you continue to support your children to learn to read and write over many years of schooling, learning life skills takes time and effort. It’s important to continue to reinforce positive behaviour and consistently remind your children how to be respectful when you see negative behaviour. By the same token, parents need to model good behaviour consistently as well.

Being a proactive and vigilant parent will take a little more time in the short-term, however, there are many benefits for your family and for society that make it worthwhile in the long-term. Teaching your child to be respectful means they’ll be less likely to engage in aggressive or disrespectful behavior that you’ll need to address with friends, or at school. You can play a key role in stopping violence at the start by raising your daughter with the knowledge and the skills to expect respect. This way, you not only improve your family life, but also the lives of others in your community.

Handy resources

Hear more advice from Rosina in her video interview.

Use the excuse interpreter to discover the hidden meanings of common expressions that can excuse disrespectful behaviour towards girls

Use the respect checklist to become more aware of what your boy and girl might be thinking in disrespectful or aggressive situations.

Use the conversation guide to help you talk more confidently and openly with young people about the importance of respectful relationships