I think everyone would agree that children deserve respect. Every human being deserves to be respected. However, what troubles me so often is how disrespectful adults can be to children without realizing that their actions are disrespectful.
I encourage every adult who interacts with a child to STOP and think. How would you feel if you were that infant, toddler, preschooler, or school age child on the receiving end of your action?
Infant: Baby is sitting on the floor working diligently to master a toy. All of a sudden someone jerks him up from behind without warning. Now from the adult’s perspective, it is time for a diaper change. The baby can’t speak, so the adult assumes that the baby doesn’t understand language. The respectful approach would be to make sure the infant sees the adult, for the adult to say, “I am going to change your diaper now” and gently lift the baby. That is a respectful approach. Use words to describe what is going to happen next, even to a very young child.
Toddler/Two-year-old: Screaming because something didn’t go right. The adult just says to stop. The respectful approach is to say, “I know you feel sad right now that you are not allowed to go outside, but the screaming has to stop.” Having expectations is okay, but validating their feelings shows respect. The adult could even redirect with options like, “If you need to scream, you can scream in your room or whatever is acceptable in your home.
Preschool: Have you ever been walking through a store and heard an adult just talking in a hateful, exhausted, and irritating tone to children beside them?It is interesting to notice that the adult’s cell phone can ring and that same adult’s tone changes completely. They begin to laugh and talk like a wonderful, kind, loving, and personable person to whomever is on the other end. I’ve often wanted to walk over and say, “No matter what, these children deserve that same respectful tone.”
Some research states that language is 75% nonverbal. It isn’t what you say; it is often HOW you say it. Children can feel if you really like them. Smile, look your child in the eye when you talk to her and remember that loving touches soothe. Show respect and you will receive respect.
Pre-teens: Most young teens begin to say, “If you respect me, you will let me do whatever I want to do” but they DO NOT mean it. They want and need boundaries. Showing respect to these walking bodies of hormones means that you will listen completely to what they have to say. Do not interrupt them, if possible. THINK before you respond. Often they are just processing what they feel and you need to just let them process. Be consistent and fair because this age hates injustice. You can expect respect from them but you need to model that behavior. They want to see you treating them and others with respect. No matter what, keep expressing your love, smile at them, and keep them talking to you. They read your non-verbal cues, so watch your body language.
Respect is defined as a positive feeling of esteem for a person. Let the children in your world KNOW that you feel a positive feeling of esteem toward them. Demonstrate it…live it out.
By Donna McClintock, COO Children’s Choice Learning Centers