Children and Respect

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Children and Respect
Bulletin #8050

       don’t get no respect,” says a   that action is important. We gain   Educators, parents and other
       well-known comedian. To         the respect of children and show    adults are disrespectful to
       expand our understandings       our respect for children by how     children when we:
of what respect is and why it          we behave with and around them.       Do not take children’s
might be important, we might           The adage still holds: To gain        opinions seriously.
imagine a world in which nothing       respect we must give respect.
is respected. Without respect,         Respect is a two-way street.          Use angry words under stress
                                                                                          (Continued on back.)
little or nothing would be of              How do we give and gain
value, including ourselves or our      respect? There are many active
relationships. No one would have a     ways to demonstrate our respect
sense of empowerment in society,       for children, and there are many
nothing would have meaning and         ways to determine how well we
disorder would prevail.                respect the children in our care.
     The term respect means to be      The following are a few examples
                                       of respectful and disrespectful
    The term respect means to be
    mindful, to pay attention, to      Educators, parents and other
    show consideration, to avoid       adults show respect for children
    intruding upon and to avoid        when we:
                                          Allow a child to complete
                                          what they are saying
mindful, to pay attention, to show        uninterrupted.
consideration, to avoid intruding         Allow children to make
upon and to avoid violating.              mistakes.
Respect can be viewed either as
                                          Allow and encourage civil
an outcome of our interactions,
for example, we give or gain              disagreement.
respect, or the word can be used          Allow transition time
to describe behavior, for example,        from one activity to
when we behave in a respectful            another.
manner. Used to describe                  Know how to say
behavior, respect becomes an              no, and be willing
action word, and as parents and           to say no and
educators of children we know             stick to it.
   and, in particular, direct         good of individuals, as well as         4. Encourage children to
   angry words toward them.           behaviors that contribute                  discipline themselves and to
   Finish children’s tasks for        positively to the common good of           voluntarily comply with
   them, rather than giving           our social environments.                   reasonable social rules.
   encouragement or directions            From this perspective, we can       5. Provide opportunities for
   and allowing them time to          more easily remember to actively           participatory decision making,
   finish tasks for themselves.       educate children to the fact of life       some group rule making, and
                                      that with rights come limits and           shared responsibilities.
   Answer questions for them.         responsibilities. We need to ask
   Shout or use sarcasm.                                                      6. Teach the values of sharing
                                      children questions such as, “Would
                                                                                 and tolerance through
   Rush them.                         you want to be treated with way?”
                                                                                 cooperative projects and
                                      or “Would you want all persons
   Do not take care of our own                                                   cooperative conflict resolution.
                                      in the world to act this way in
   physical or emotional needs.                                               7. Promote discussion and debate
                                      similar situations?” These types of
Respect is shown when children        questions help children to define          of ethical issues as they
get recognition for who they are      and shape their individual,                inevitably arise in daily activities.
and what they do, when they are       personal and social responsibilities       These might include issues
allowed to exercise options and       in a democratic society. Most              such as fairness, inclusion
make choices within acceptable        people, though certainly not all,          and exclusion, following rules,
frameworks, and when their            would agree that values such as            cheating and a host of other
choices are acknowledged and          compassion, due process, equal             things that arise during the
accepted. Respect is not shown        opportunity, freedom of thought,           course of a normal day.
by deferential treatment, by          honesty, integrity, critical inquiry,
                                                                              Effective educational programs
fawning over them or by well-         knowledge, and tolerance are
                                                                              have effective adult leadership. An
intentioned deception. It is often    human values that cross ethnic,
                                                                              effective leader who wants to help
too easy to disrespect children       class, gender and religious
                                                                              children learn respect will both
because they are physically           boundaries.
                                                                              inform and involve children, is
small, are more dependent than            How might we educate children
                                                                              straightforward and honest, and
most adults, and have less ability    to respect themselves and others?
                                                                              identifies a focus such as respect,
than do adults to control their       Lickona (1988) suggests that to
                                                                              integrity or compassion that
needs and wants. They need            develop children’s capacities to
                                                                              children can develop and work
more explanations, they need          think, feel and behave respectfully
                                                                              toward over extended periods of
more time and their behaviors         requires parents and educators to:
are childish simply because they      1. Serve as models of respect
are children, not yet capable of         by caring enough to interact         References:
conforming to adult standards.           with and correct children            Lickona, T. (1988). “Educating
                                         when they behave insensitively       the moral child.” Principal, 6-9.
Teaching Mutual Respect:                 towards others.                      Prepared by Marilyn Ellis,
The Two-Way Street                    2. Develop cohesive groups by           Extension 4-H/Youth Specialist
                                         helping children interact and        For more information on family
Teaching mutual respect, at its          learn about each other so they       issues, contact your county
core, refers to character education      gain understanding of each           Extension office or the State Family
and to values education, areas           other’s uniqueness, and in           Living Office, UMCE, 5717 Corbett
that easily may differ widely                                                 Hall, Orono, ME 04469-5717, (207)
                                         this way feel each is truly a
among individuals in any given                                                581-3448/3104 or 1-800-287-0274.
                                         part of the group.
social group. In a multicultural                                              A Member of the University of Maine System.
                                      3. Hold children accountable to
society, questions immediately                                                Published and distributed in furtherance of Acts
                                         high standards of academic
arise as to whose values should                                               of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the
                                         responsibility so that they          University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the
be taught. One way to address                                                 Land Grant University of the state of Maine and
                                         learn abstractly as well as
this issue is to promote behaviors                                            the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.
                                         interpersonally how people           Cooperative Extension and other agencies of the
that affirm human dignity, protect                                            U.S.D.A. provide equal opportunities in programs
                                         develop and contribute to the
human rights and advance the                                                  and employment. 7/02
                                         larger community.

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