Yesterday I witnessed a couple of brief incidents between a child and an adult. The adult was shaming, scolding and refusing to honor the child's body-boundaries. The chief complaint? That the child had been "disrespectful". The irony was glaring.
No doubt, if questioned, the adult would have claimed that children should respect adults, merely because of their age. It was certainly expressed, although not verbalized, that children do not deserve respect, merely because of their age. I disagree with both of those, especially the latter. All people deserve to be treated with kindness, respect and dignity. All deserve to have their own boundaries honored, especially over their own bodies.
Often what adults perceive as disrespect is simply the accurate imitation of their own attitudes. Punishing them for following our example is a bit hypocritical, no? The best way to teach children to be respectful is to show them how to treat others.
At other times, there is no intent to be disrespectful at all. Children don't always have the social sophistication to phrase things the way we consider acceptable. In this case, offering them a script of a more courteous way to express their ideas might be helpful.
Finally, disagreement is not the same thing as disrespect. If we don't give our children practice in standing up for their own opinions and beliefs in the home, how on earth can we expect them to do so outside of the home? It takes skill and practice to be comfortable going against your peers. If we want our children to think for themselves, we must allow them the opportunity.
“The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.” ~ R. W. Emerson