Teaching Respect in the Early Childhood Setting

Image of Rusty the Raccoon

For young children, being respectful means:

  • Being kind to friends and family.
  • Using good manners.
  • Not hitting or hurting others.
  • Talking about your problems.

Teachers are an important influence on young children. The children in your classroom will learn by the example you set for them. This means that the ways that you are respectful of others will influence the ways the children are respectful of others. The most important respect you can model for your child is respect within the classroom. Showing the children you respect them and treating the children with respect will have long-lasting influence on the way the children respect others.

Infants and respect

The foundations of respect begin in infancy. When you talk to the infants in your care in response to their cries and coos, you are showing them that their situation is important. Perhaps a baby is crying You might say, "I know that you are crying. You must be hungry. I am fixing you a bottle right now. It is almost ready." This probably will not stop the baby from crying, but it will reassure her. It is also the first step in teaching the baby to talk about her problems.

Be kind to parents, staff and children in front of the babies. They may not understand all that is going on, but they will sense the stress of a fight or confrontation. Even in infancy, babies will benefit from experiencing kind words and actions.

Toddlers and respect

During the toddler years, you may find you spend a lot of time talking about not hitting or hurting others. Sometimes toddlers find that the easiest way to solve a problem is with a hit or a grab because they are not as skilled at using language to solve problems. Continue to let the toddler know what behavior you like to see, and the toddlers will eventually exhibit this behavior.

Preschoolers and respect

Aspects of respect, such as using good manners and not hitting others, can be very difficult for preschool children to practice. Positive reinforcement is a good way to encourage the children to use good manners. When a child says please or thank you at the appropriate time, say “I like the way you said please” or “thank you for saying please.” These messages make it clear to children what behavior you like and let them know you are paying attention.

Teaching young children not to hit takes time. Young children hit to solve problems because they are frustrated and don't have the language skills to stop the problem another way. Encourage the children to use words and to tell others what they are feeling. Helping young children develop problem-solving skills now will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Being respectful of others may also mean respecting differences in the wayothers look or act. Children can begin to learn about respecting differences among people by learning about differences among children in the classroom. Talking about differences among classroom members is a good way for children to learn how they are unique and special. Children who know how they are unique and special will bebetter prepared to handle an encounter with someone who is not respectful of individual differences.

3/15/2005 9:58:58 PM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture