Respect for Who, What, Where, When & Why!

Our question today comes from the February 2nd column “Social Q’s” by Philip Galanes in the Sunday New York Times. 

Question: I have a mostly sweet and fairly well-behaved son. But sometimes he is really mean to Siri (the simulated assistant on my phone’s operating system). He’ll say things like, “You’re a stupid idiot, Siri.” Do you think we should punish him for statements like these? If he ever called an actual person an idiot, he would be in huge trouble.

~ Amy, New York

Answer: “Put a stop to your young buck’s rudeness to your operating system” is a prominent sentence in the first part of Mr Galanes’ answer. He goes onto explain that Siri is enough like a human being that a personal attack on her is uncalled for and not inappropriate. In his complete answer he makes the point that routine interactions like these with virtual pals can lead to treating real people in similar disrespectful and offensive ways.

I totally support his answer and believe he gave Amy good advice. Now I would like to take his ideas a little further.

It is equally important to teach young children respect for all their possessions. Many children today have an overabundance of toys, and this situation often leads to throwing them around. Therefore, it is important to teach the idea of picking up toys and putting them back in specific places. In addition, this kind of teaching should extend to other things in your home like books, pencils, pens, markers, kitchen utensils, electronics and almost all household items.

Here is a well-known saying:

“Take care of your equipment, and your equipment will take care of you.”

~ Anonymous

February! The Month of the Heart

In many school rooms, there is teaching never to put or leave books on the floor. Children in those classrooms are learning respect.


  1. You should guide your son towards the behavior that you want him to have. You should ask him how would he feel if someone spoke to him that way. I agree that many youngsters have no respect for self or items. We need to get back to guiding our children as the adults in their lives are their mirror to the world.
    I do not think punishment works anymore guidance teaches discipline . We should adjust our parenting style based on the child’s temperament.

  2. Hi Daseta,

    Thank you so very much for your insightful comment. Yes, guidance discipline is the exact right idea. As you pointed out, modeling behavior is a big part of that. The word discipline comes from the Latin word “discipline,” which means to teach.

    Old idea: What kind of punishment can I give my child so that he or she will not do that again?

    New idea: What can I teach my child about the situation so that he or she will not make the same mistake again?

    Respect is the overriding value to instill. Once children have it, proper behavior is likely to follow.

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