The 6 Main Keys to Respectful Parenting

Discover the keys to respectful parenting, which aims to treat children with dignity, understand their worldview, and help them develop as individuals.
The 6 Main Keys to Respectful Parenting
Elena Sanz Martín

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

More and more parents are truly committed to raising free and happy children. Instead of seeking blind obedience, as they did decades ago, more and more parents are committed to the courageous task of guiding human beings toward the development of their greatest potential. For these conscious adults, those are the keys to respectful parenting.

We know that it’s not easy to choose an educational style. Professionals, the media, and those in the immediate environment bombard parents with opinions and often contradictory parenting advice. However, there’s a multitude of evidence (from attachment theory to more recent research) that confirms the benefits of respectful parenting. So, we want to share with you what it is all about.

The main keys to respectful parenting

The keys to respectful parenting aren’t steps to apply in specific situations, but rather a way of life, a way of understanding parenting based on love, dignity and, above all, centered on children.

Here are the 6 main keys of respectful parenting.

1. Maintain a responsive attitude

From the moment a child is born, it’s essential that the primary caregivers are sensitive to the child’s needs and responsive to their demands. Understanding what the baby needs at any given moment and providing it consistently are fundamental pillars for establishing a good attachment bond. And here it’s not only a question of tending to feedings or infant hygiene but also of being able to recognize the baby’s emotional discomfort and help them to regulate it.

These guidelines should be maintained throughout childhood because every child needs to feel that they’re seen by their parents, that they’re understood, and that they’ll receive help and support from them whenever they need it.

If adults don’t respond or do so in a hostile or inconsistent manner, the long-term emotional damage can be significant.

A mother holding her infant daughter while looking out at the ocean.
The responsive attitude on the part of parents is much more important than an “I love you”. It’s showing them that what they feel is important.

2. Achieving self-management and self-control

To apply respectful parenting, it’s important to start by working on oneself. In order to offer your child what they need, you must first invest in being the best version of yourself as a human being. That mother who knows how to be patient, who can tolerate discomfort, and who’s able to manage her own emotions so as not to fall into outbursts and impulses.

These qualities are essential to be able to give calm to a child who cries, who screams, and who doesn’t listen to reason. They’re essential to be able to accompany them without resorting to screaming and other behaviors that are so natural and frequent in overwhelmed fathers and mothers. So, start by working on yourself.

3. Parenting from a child’s perspective

Respectful parenting is respectful of childhood, of what it means to be a child, and of the infant’s perspective on the world. Therefore, it doesn’t perceive them as miniature adults, but accepts, appreciates, and adopts that other perspective: That of the child.

To raise a child with respect is understanding that little ones are noisy, spontaneous, and emotional and also, allowing them to be that way. It’s paying attention to the evolutionary stage they’re going through to understand why they act as they do and what they need at that moment.

Therefore, parents must be informed and nourished by authors and reliable sources to understand child psychology and be able to accompany them without restricting them.

4. Establishing horizontal relationships, one of the main keys to respectful parenting

From this paradigm, children and adults don’t establish a hierarchical relationship, but a horizontal one. In other words, both are considered equally worthy of affection, respect, and understanding.

Parents should treat their children with dignity and not apply anything in their upbringing that they wouldn’t like to receive. Therefore, physical punishments are completely out of place and any correction must be done with conscience, knowing what it’s intended to teach, and not out of the pure inertia of having lost one’s temper.

Likewise, children aren’t expected to obey simply because they’re minors or because they’re considered “inferior” to their parents. On the contrary, they’re made to participate in the explanations, decisions, and consequences. The aim is for them to understand and learn and not just to submit to the discipline of their elders.

5. Practicing empathy and providing love

Love and empathy are the basis of respectful parenting and the way to respond in interactions with children, even in the most challenging ones.

It’s not only about providing physical affection, words of encouragement, and presence, but also about being empathetic with them when they’re having a difficult time.

If a child has a tantrum in the street, it’s natural for parents to lose their temper, yell, or drag the child home. However, this parenting style encourages us to stop for a moment to understand what the child is feeling and to ask ourselves what they need from us, and not what we need from them.

In this case, after doing this analysis, we’ll understand that what they need from us is patience, companionship, and listening. They need us to help them put a name on what they feel and validate it (give them permission to feel and express it) and teach them how to channel it in a better way. Therefore, educating in emotional intelligence is a fundamental key.

A father listening thoughtfulyy to his son whie touching his shoulder.
Empathy is a crucial value to teach children to be grateful and respectful to others. This will lay the foundations for a fairer society.

6. Encourage autonomy

Finally, let’s remember that respectful parenting seeks to guide and accompany the child so that they can develop to their full potential. Therefore, it’s essential to encourage their autonomy from the earliest years, either in the participation in making certain decisions or in carrying out certain actions on their own. This, of course, should always be within the margin of parental supervision and with circumstances adapted to the child’s age.

In short, the aim is to avoid overprotection and dependence of the child and, on the contrary, to encourage opportunities to become a resolute, decisive person with confidence in their own abilities.

Respectful parenting builds happy and emotionally healthy children

This educational style brings numerous benefits and contributes to children becoming more autonomous, happier, and more self-confident.

Knowing that they’re loved, listened to, and respected, they develop a sense of trust in themselves and in others, which also enables them to relate to others in healthy ways. This is reflected, primarily, in the bond between parents and children, which is often strong and close, facilitating coexistence and helping to create a positive climate in the home.

Therefore, we encourage you to start applying the principles of respectful parenting today. This decision will be the best gift you can give your children.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bowlby, J., & Ainsworth, M. (2013). The origins of attachment theory. Attachment theory: Social, developmental, and clinical perspectives45, 759-775.
  • González, M. & Sáenz, N. (2020). Crianza Respetuosa: Hacia una parentalidad centrada en las niñas y los niños. Estudios, (41).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.