Respect means to show you value others by treating them with courtesy and consideration. Respect is a virtue that has always been heavily emphasized in our community. The most powerful way we have found to encourage children to act in a respectful manner, is for the adults to communicate and interact with the children in a respectful manner. It is only when a child has been treated with respect that he can learn to value himself. Once a child values himself, then he can learn to value and respect others.
At SCC, our respectful treatment of the children includes how we communicate verbally and nonverbally with them. A respectful use of words with children is essential if a child is to learn to show respect for others. Nonverbal communication is just as important as spoken communication because children are very good at picking up on the nonverbal cues we give. Respectful nonverbal communication includes:
making eye contact with the child when we talk or listen to them
getting down to the child’s level so they can see us eye-to-eye
using a caring facial expression and gentle touch
using a respectful tone of voice
The teachers communicate with the children in a respectful manner by getting down on their level when talking to them or even when baking cookies with them.
In addition to the staff using a respectful tone of voice with the children, we guide the preschool children in how they can use a respectful tone of voice with us and with each other. If a child makes a disrespectful comment, we help them modify their words so they keep the meaning but they are respectful, or we explain that the words they used were O.K. but their voice needs to be different. Then we show them what a respectful tone would sound like and ask them to say it again. Disrespectful comments often have an emotional message the child is trying to convey, so by allowing the child to still express that message, they feel they are being respected.
Another way we show respect to the children is to allow them to choose when they are ready to share an item they are playing with. If the object is new, we will set a timer so everyone gets an equal chance to try it out, but for toys that have been in use for awhile, we do not force the children to stop playing with it when someone else decides they want to play with it. We do however, ask the child with the toy to let the other child know as soon as they are done with it. By being respectful to the child with the toy, we have found that the children share spontaneously much more often.
Respect and consideration are emphasized in the games and interactions of both our preschoolers and our younger children. The children are taught to ask if it is alright to touch another child or to ask who wants to be “IT” rather than just designating someone as “IT”. The preschool children learn to respect the limited abilities of younger children and to offer help when needed.
Respect for all life is emphasized whether it is other people, the rabbits, the turtles, or an insect crawling on the patio. If we find an insect inside the house we have a bug catcher we use to catch it and then escort it outside if possible. If it is not possible to catch the insect, we explain to the children the necessity of being safe and sanitary before the insect is destroyed.
We show the children how to respect and properly treat animals, such as the rabbits and turtles we have at our community. When the rabbits come to visit our preschool circle time, the children learn how to wait patiently for the rabbit to come to them, how to use soft voices so as not to scare them, and how to properly pet them. They also learn to watch the turtles quietly in the forest and then they discover the turtles will come closer if they are being respectful to them.
Being respectful to the children includes letting them make choices of non-conformity. A young child usually has so little say in what happens in their life that it is understandable when they rebel and just want to have some control in what they do. In this case we give them choices within limits. For instance, if a child does not want to sit at the table to have a snack, they do not have to, but their choice is to sit at the table or sit on the sofa and wait until snack time is over. Or if they do not want to put on their shoes outside, they do not have to, but they will need to stay sitting instead of running and playing. These are true choices we offer the children. Punishment is not expressed or implied in any way in these choices.
We try to always give the child choices within limits and to be considerate of what may be going on for the child. We try to show respect by acknowledging the child’s wants and desires and to give them as many options as possible. We work to make our communication with the children respectful even at those times when discipline is necessary. If a child needs correction and redirection, we address the action, not the child. Telling a child what he did was wrong does not damage his self-esteem, whereas telling him, “You are mean” or “You are stupid”, is disrespectful and can be very damaging to the child’s self-concept. The child must have a strong self-concept and value himself, before he can learn to value and respect others.