How to Teach Kids Life Skills — Pt. 7 Respect

Steven Elmore
4 min readJan 20, 2021

In this post I will be going over how to teach kids about respect. As I’ve mentioned in many previous posts, kids pick things up from their surroundings. Typically, kids who are disrespectful have either not been taught respect or are surrounded by others who are disrespectful. We all need to remember this when we are with are kids and something happens that tests our understanding of respect such as, we get cutoff in traffic, Starbucks gets our order wrong, someone calls you a name or has choice words for you, etc.

Martial arts begin and end with respect. There are many ways in which martial arts teaches kids about respect and I will cover those later. The way in which respect is taught in martial arts directly applies to everyday life. Being on time, keeping yourself and surroundings clean, and treating others with courteous are things that are lacking in kids and adults alike these days.

It should be noted that there is a difference between respect and obedience. Often times, parents and teachers feel kids are respecting them when actually they are just being obedient. Obedience is not a bad thing although it needs to be understood that it comes from a position of fear. Fear of getting in trouble for instance. Adults tend to think respect is owed to them due to position, experience, etc.

Respect, rather than obedience, needs to be genuine. You can’t force someone to respect you. It needs to be earned rather than expected or demanded. Leaders command respect rather than demand respect.

As I outlined in Part 1 of this series, the 4 steps to teaching kids life skills are: define the word, discuss what the definition means, use examples, and discuss why it is important. If you need more detail on the process, please go back and read Part 1.

Let’s apply the process to respect.

  • Golden rule: when working with children about respect, I often bring up the golden rule: treat others that way you want to be treated. This rule is essentially another definition of respect. If you are having a hard time figuring out how to show respect to someone, just think about how you would want that person to act towards you.
  • People/Things/Self: respect applies to everything. We need to respect other people by treating them the way we want to be treated. We need to respect things by taking good care of them and using them for their intended purpose. We also need to respect ourselves by not saying mean things to ourselves like “I am so dumb” or “I am ugly”.
  • During this step, have the kids repeat the definition after you 3–5 times then have a short discussion on the topics above. Do this 2–3 time during the week.
  • Example of respect in karate: we could spend all day talking about examples of respect in karate. We show respect to the instructor by bowing to him/her and saying yes sir or yes ma’am. We respect our classmates by being courteous to them, using control, and being on time to class. We show respect to ourselves by keeping our uniform clean and using it only for karate.
  • Example of respect at school: there are many examples of respect at school that are similar to karate. Refer to your teacher by Mr./Mrs. Raise your hand to speak in class rather than yelling out. Being courteous and nice to the other students in class.
  • Example of respect at home: respect your parents and older siblings by listening to them and doing as they ask because they know what’s best for you. Be respectful to younger siblings by being patient and showing them the correct ways to do things.
  • During this step, have the kids repeat the definition after you 3–5 times then have a short discussion on the topics above. Feel free to replace the examples with ones of your own. Substitute a different activity for karate if they don’t practice karate. Be sure to ask them for an example first before providing yours. Do this 2–3 time during the week.
  • Why is it important to have respect? Respect is a 2-way street. If you do not show respect to others, they will not respect you. If you do not take care of things, toys, animals, they will not be around anymore. If we are not respectful to other kids, we won’t have any friends.
  • During this step, briefly go over all steps 1–3 before going into this step. Be sure to ask the kids why they think it is important before providing them with the answer. Do this 2–3 times during the week.

Remember, it only takes less than 5 minutes, 2–3 times a week to go through these steps. Feel free to comment or contact me with questions.

Stay tuned for my next post which will be on how to teach kids perseverance.

Originally published at on January 20, 2021.