The key in teaching children to have respect for others is in getting them to first understand what respect actually is. Young children regularly hear adults say “you have to show respect,” but for them it is just a word. They don’t really understand what that means as a concept. They need to be told very specifically how to show respect for others and they need the adults in their lives to model respectful behavior for them to follow.
To teach primary school children to have respect for others begin with lessons in caring and why caring is important. Children can relate to caring because they understand what it is to be mean as well as what it is to have your feelings hurt. When they understand that not showing respect is having bad manners and that they might even hurt someone’s feelings they are more likely to want to show respect for others because it means they are nice when they behave well towards others.
Reading and discussing story books on how to be a friend is a good way to begin to get children to understand what it means to show respect for others as well as for themselves. By looking at the different ways in which friends behave, children will begin to understand the respect concept as being nice, showing manners, taking turns, and never using rude or mean words. These concepts can later be expanded on to show how they apply to the classroom. For instance, taking turns can be compared to not talking when it is the teacher’s turn to talk.
Students talking out of turn is a common problem teachers face while they are trying to give instructions or relay information. The response from the teacher to the student is usually to call the student out and admonish the behavior in some way. Instead, a teacher could use this situation as an opportunity to reinforce the respect concept by saying something like: “Jane, you are talking while I am trying to give the class their spelling words. That is rude and disruptive and it is very disrespectful to me and your fellow students. I would appreciate it if you would give me your full attention when I am speaking.”
Helping children to understand that rude behavior is inappropriate is the next step in getting them to grasp the concept of respect. When someone tells a child they are disrespectful it doesn’t make an impact on them until they understand just why and how the behavior is disrespectful. When a child realizes that behaving rudely towards someone (i.e., cursing) is being disrespectful towards them they can begin to connect the concepts they already know to make the connection that mean words equal rude behavior which equals disrespect.
One key factor in teaching children to have respect for others is self esteem. If a child does not feel good about him or herself or has significant anger issues, this child is not going to care about being respectful. Misery loves company and because this child has a reason to feel bad they will feel it is their mission to make others feel bad too. To address this problem have students engage in individual and cooperative activities that are designed to improve self awareness and self esteem.
Another key factor in having children behave with respect for others is having others, including the adults in their lives show respect for them. It is impossible to never become impatient in the classroom, but it is extremely important to not turn nasty or sound mean when addressing a child. Sarcasm or talking down to a child in any way is never appropriate and will certainly not get them to respect you.
There is no one specific means for teaching respect, however, to successfully address the respect concept with primary school students it is extremely important that students see teachers, administrators and other staff members modeling the behavior of showing respect for others at all times. Children learn what they live and they will always emulate what they see the adults around them doing.