We probably all have a certain type of respect for say the law, or our religion or maybe national identity.

But being respectful of our parents, friends and others in relationships can sometimes be a bit muddled.

For example, your parents say you can’t go out tonight as you haven’t finished the homework that was due in yesterday. It’s a natural reaction to feel that’s unfair, and take your anger out on your parents. But really, showing respect would mean getting the homework done without complaining, as they are just looking out for your best interests, even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.

Age and the Law

Respect is one of the most important foundations for any relationship. In a relationship where there is mutual respect, both people can feel confident to be themselves and know they will be accepted for who they are. They will feel they are equal to each other, not inferior or superior.

Respect is not asking someone to do something or be a part of something that goes against their values. This can include sex, drugs or alcohol, but it can also mean respecting family traditions. This could be as minor as taking your shoes off when you enter your friend’s house, because that’s what they do. A relationship with a friend who doesn’t respect your values is one that should be thought about carefully. Some relationships can be damaging, and it’s often not until you get out of a harmful relationship that you realise just how bad it has been.


Respect Differences

Where there are differences of opinion, feelings, culture or belief there is always a choice to be made: respect the difference, or bully the other person until they change. When a person does not have respect for the other, they can cause serious harm, both emotionally and at times physically too. For any relationship to work in the long term there must be equal respect.


Your friends might have a relationship where you joke around with each other and say things that would be disrespectful coming from someone else, but it’s just how you have fun. This is fine, as long as everyone is having fun, but it’s not OK if someone is uncomfortable or offended by the banter.

Friendship questionnaire:

Think carefully about a friendship or relationship you have, and answer these questions honestly: 

Am I actually happy?

Do I feel I can say something and know that I won’t be laughed at?

Do I feel like I am an equal in this relationship?

Are my values respected?

Would this person ever make me do something I wasn’t sure about?


If your answers make you question a relationship, it maybe that the relationship is not working and a decision needs to be made whether to continue the relationship or not. Look at our conflict page for ideas of steps you can take to improve the relationship.

Our family and friends deserve to be respected and in turn you should also be treated with respect. The ways we interact with others can become patterns in our live, sometimes for good and sometimes not so good. Those patterns will in time affect how you see your future partner.