How to help young people show respect for authority in school

As the mother of five young children, I am very concerned for their education. Three of my children attend a public school here in the Cleveland area. As a volunteer in the classrooms, I have seen first-hand how disrespectful the children can be. Teachers have the career with the most responsibility and the least financial reward. They deserve our respect as well as our children's. Here are a few ideas:

Realize that first of all, children should be treated with respect from their parents. A child who feels valued and honored for who he/she is will be better able to value and honor those in authority.- Start when the child is very young to instill an attitude of appreciation for others. Parents should show respect for the teacher. Never speak negatively about the teacher. Talk with children about the teacher's role to teach and the children's role to learn. Giving them opportunities to teach lessons in family home evening is an excellent way to put them in the shoes of their own teachers.

Limit television to wholesome programs. Much of the programming for children includes cartoons and commercials that put authority figures in a negative light.

Invite the Lord to be involved with your child's education. At the beginning of each school year our children receive a father's blessing. On a daily basis, we often include the children's teachers in our family prayers. - Laura Debenham, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

What we did:

`Learning laboratory'

In public education, citizens elect a board that hires educators who admittedly may approach their authority and responsibility in a range of different ways. Some have only learned an adversarial approach, which often leads to a power struggle. Some learn to use a team approach, creating a co-operative setting in which people can learn to work together.

The process of learning a co-operative approach can take place at home when we think of the family as a "learning laboratory" where we can learn and practice gospel principles such as acceptance and forgiveness. Students can also develop increased respect by being grateful for the following:

The adult who demonstrates belief in them.

The opportunities to practice basic language skills of speaking, reading and writing; basic learning skills of reasoning, research, revelation and repetition; and basic labor skills of how to work, how to work together, and how to develop and accomplish objectives.

The opportunity to be introduced to how to make a living, individually and collectively.

The opportunity to be encouraged to develop motivation to go on in their own individual study. - David Fiske, Salt Lake City, Utah

Mutual respect

I am a junior high teacher and a mother of a junior high student. My only class rules, which are applicable at home as well, are respect, respect and respect. A youth must have respect for herself/himself, respect for peers and respect for school authorities. I have found that teaching this essential principle as part of my educational curriculum at the onset and throughout the year is necessary to ensure the safe, secure and fair environment that my students need for optimal learning.

Stressing respect for oneself at home and school as a foundation for all respect to others is fundamental to our divine nature as children of our Heavenly Father. I have emphasized that I expect respect from my daughters and my students not only because I am placed in a position of authority responsible for their welfare and education, but also I expect their respect because I give that respect to them. My students, my daughters and I strive for mutual respect in our everyday associations with each other despite our age differences. Isn't this what our Savior taught us through His example with others and especially with children? - Lori Ingram Vliet, Hammond, La.

Be supportive

Parents can help their children be respectful to the school staff and teachers by:

Still calling them "Mr.," "Ms." or "Mrs" at school functions.

Not berating or talking negatively about teachers at home in front of your children.

Being supportive of teachers if problems arise. Your son or daughter may have been in the wrong. Get all the facts and approach the teacher in a positive way.

Talking about the importance of an education and telling your children how grateful you are that they can attend school.

Teaching them to be respectful to the school property inside and out on the grounds. - Patricia Stecklein Perry, Corvallis, Ore.

Address formally

As I was growing up, my parents always addressed teachers and principals formally, even though they had been friends for years. We must also respect the teachers' opinions concerning discipline and should never question their authority in front of young people. Any discussions of this type should be in private. - Donald L. Hosman, Anaheim, Calif.

Prevention is best

Realize that prevention is always the best approach to problems. You should respond promptly to any request by teachers or administrators to meet with you regarding your child.

Learn the rules of conduct that your school expects students to obey. Most schools give each student a copy of the rules at the beginning of the school year. But parents are often oblivious to these rules. For example, you should know that in most school districts a student can be disciplined for carrying a pocket knife to school.

Take time at the beginning of each school year to teach your child about guilt by association and avoiding the appearance of evil. Your child should be warned that if he/she is in the same car where other students are drinking or taking drugs, then your child is involved.

Keep an open mind until you hear all sides of a story. Prayerfully consider all accounts and take action accordingly.

Realize that it is a natural response to take over and "make it all better." Don't do it! Your child needs to learn to take responsibility for his/her actions and to suffer the consequences. Letting them pay the price may be the most valuable lesson they can learn in school.

Discuss matters privately if you feel the school handled them poorly. Don't include your child in the discussion about the technicalities. Children see this as a shifting of their responsibility to the school and the parents. - Doug Heaton, Elgin, Ill.

Be involved

Consistently attend "Back to School Nights" and parent-teacher conferences no matter how busy your are. These visits suggest to your students without any words your respect for the school system.

Make time to participate as a school volunteer whether it be in PTA, community councils or "Volunteers in the Classroom." - Margaret W. Jorgensen, Bountiful, Utah

How to checklist:

Invite Lord's involvement; pray for teachers, give father's blessings to children.

Be example; show respect yourself, be supportive.

Begin in the home; treat your children with respect; instill appreciation, forgiveness.

Teach young people to be responsible for own behavior.

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Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to get out of a rut in your career," "How to be emotionally self-reliant," "How to place people above tasks."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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