How to Teach Boys to Respect Authority

By Shellie Braeuner
Talking respectfully with your son helps him learn to respect authority.
Talking respectfully with your son helps him learn to respect authority.

Respect for authority is more than just following directions. Boys who don’t respect authority are at risk for problems in school and in the community. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website notes that boys represent 70 percent of all arrests for juvenile crime. Dr. Aric Sigman, a psychologist and fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, says that students who lack respect for authority are at higher risk for committing juvenile crime. They may also be misdiagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The good news is, as with any skill, you can teach your son how to respect authority.

Boys and Respect

Respect for authority is just one aspect of teaching boys respect. The capacity for respect begins with teaching your son self-respect. Dr. Bruce Duncan Perry points out that this is at the heart of all other forms of respect. You can encourage self-respect in your child by recognizing and celebrating his differences. When he respects himself, you nurture respect for authority when you, as a parent, teach, expect and model respect for others.

Teaching Respect

Dr. William Sears encourages parents to start teaching respect early. Sears encourages parents to create a loving bond of trust from birth. As your son grows, allow him to make choices that are age appropriate. When he chooses poorly or makes a mistake, let him experience the consequences of his choice. For example, if your son wants to play in the snow, but doesn’t want to wait to dress properly, let him try. When he comes in early, wet and cold, ask him what he thinks might have happened if he wore his warm clothing. As he learns to reflect on his choices, he will learn to trust your direction.

Expect Respect

Children tend to live up to expectations. According to Sears, parents who expect respect are more likely to receive it. Those who allow defiance will see defiance. Make your expectations clear by setting limits to behavior. Boys should learn to use “please” and “thank you.” If your child slips and behaves disrespectfully, Dr. William Doherty encourages you to let him know. For example, if you’re picking up your son and he asks “What took you so long?” in a rude or demanding tone, you must address his behavior. If you immediately become defensive, you allow him to show disrespect. Instead, consider calmly saying “I’m sorry, you don’t get to ask me in that tone of voice,” then go on with your drive. On the flip side, be sure to respond promptly when your son speaks in a respectful tone.

Model Respect

Your son learns by what he sees. Sears reminds parents that they are the first authority figures your son observes. How you handle respect teaches him how to respond to authority figures. A child who watches his father denigrate police, teachers or other authority figures learns that these people deserve no respect. On the other hand, the boy who observes his father treating others with respect learns that this is normal behavior. It is also vital that parents treat each other with respect. If a son sees his mother consistently treated with little or no respect by his father, he will learn that treating his mother with disrespect is normal.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.