Teaching children to respect others' time and space is essential to their behavioral development.

How to Get Kids to Respect the Time and Space of Others

by Jennifer Brozak

"Mommy! Mom! Mommy!" your 2-year-old is yelling as she pulls on your pant leg. For the past 15 minutes, she had been playing quietly in her room with her dollhouse. And then, you had the nerve to answer the phone. Parents of toddlers know that they have impeccable timing; when you least need them to be quiet or self-entertained, they are. Conversely, in those moments when you need silence or space, they start to whine, cry, yell, pinch the cat, ask (repeatedly) to be picked up, dump out their toy box, and so on -- anything to get your attention. Respect is one of the most fundamental values you can teach your children, and this includes teaching them to respect the time and space of others.

Model good behavior. If you want your child to learn to respect others' time and space, then, as her biggest influence, you must model these actions. Try to be aware of your own behaviors: Don't interrupt others when they're working or otherwise engaged, don't talk "overtop" of someone else because you feel what you have to say is more important, and don't invade others' personal space. As the adult, you must set the example.

Use positive reinforcements. If you need a few minutes of uninterrupted time to pay bills, call your boss or simply decompress, experts from DrSears.com recommend that you "connect before you direct." With a 3-year-old, for example, get down to eye level and explain -- simply and briefly -- what you need from him, and then do what you need to do. Bust out the coloring books and crayons, and then tell him, "Mommy needs to make a phone call. Please color quietly." If he complies, praise his behavior, using age-appropriate language. You could say, "You behaved so well when Mommy was on the phone! Great job, honey!" And hey, if he's still coloring intently when you finish your work, sneak into the kitchen and grab a piece of chocolate. Just kidding. (Not really.)

Follow through. If you're eating dinner and your toddler keeps leaving her chair to climb on you, tell her sternly, "Darling, please don't climb on us while we're eating. It's not nice." Then, move her off of your lap onto the floor. If she tries it again, give her a warning: "We've already told you not to climb on us while we're eating. If you do it again, you'll have to sit in time out." And then, if she gets out of her chair and tries to climb on you again, follow through by walking her to her time-out chair. Let her sit there for a few minutes (one minute per year of age), and then, when time's up, explain why she was there. The point is, don't use empty threats; otherwise, you'll be left trying to shovel in forkfuls of spaghetti while holding 26 pounds of squirmy child on your lap. Use age-appropriate discipline, and she'll eventually get the message.


  • If you're looking for ideas on how to keep your child busy when you need time and space to get something done, consider creating busy bags. Busy bags are kid-friendly, self-contained activities that are packaged in small bags. Pinterest is chock-full of busy-bag ideas, as are websites like mysmallpotatoes.com.

About the Author

As a mother, wife and recovering English teacher, Jennifer Brozak is passionate about all things parenting and education. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and St. Vincent College, Jennifer writes features for the IN Community magazine network and shares her daily escapades on her blog, One Committed Mama.

Photo Credits

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