“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future… Let us treat them with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.” – Maria Montessori
If you’re familiar with the Montessori approach, you’ll know that it’s more than just academics – it’s a way of life where children learn to be respectful and kind, and be part of a community. Much of the Montessori philosophy stems from a deep respect for children – including respecting their freedom to choose, to work at their own pace, to correct their own mistakes and to move around freely.
Oftentimes, adults forget to treat children with the dignity and respect they deserve. This can be seen in the way that adults sometimes interrupt children, hug or kiss them without asking, dismiss something they have to say, or talk over them or about them to other adults while they’re right there. This sends a message that they are not seen or respected. Although they are children, they deserve respect in the same way you would give any other individual. Here are eight loving ways to help your child learn respect and feel respected.
#1. Allow your child to make choices about their body
This may seem obvious, but it can be an easy one to overlook when we have our “parenting hat” on! Allowing your child to make choices about their body is extremely liberating and respectful. Take a minute to ask yourself how you would feel if someone forced you to wear an outfit that you really didn’t like to work, or have to go to your best friend’s party with a hairstyle you hated? Not great, right? Our children have their own unique taste, and we should encourage them to choose what they like to wear. It empowers them to become more independent.
When it comes to greeting family members, we also should not force our children to hug and kiss everyone just because it’s “polite”. First ask your child if they would prefer to hug, kiss or high five. Allowing your child to make choices about their body now can have a big impact on how they feel about their rights and ability to say no in the future.
Another aspect to consider is personal hygiene and appearance. Instead of rushing over to wipe their nose, rather say, “Here’s a tissue so you can wipe your nose.” Instead of automatically tucking in a scruffy shirt you can say, “I noticed your shirt is sticking out. Would you like help tucking it back in or would you like to do it yourself?” When we do these little fixes on our child’s body, it disempowers them to attend to their personal needs.
2. Use good manners when interacting with children
We use them when conversing with adults, so why not use the same amount of respect with children? By modelling grace and courtesy, we teach them the right way to treat all people – no matter their age – and instilling self respect.
3. Respond to mistakes with grace
Children make mistakes. A lot! It’s how we as human beings learn and evolve. Instead of laughing at their “banana shoes” that were put on the wrong feet, or getting angry because they spilled the milk all over the floor by mistake, observe your child without judgement and encourage them to keep trying. Responding with laughter or anger can damage their self esteem, humiliate them and discourage them from trying again.
4. Really listen
This can be a hard one as we’re often busy or in a hurry, but patience takes practice. Children tend to talk a lot, and younger children can take a while to get the full story out. Respecting your child means really listening to them with eye contact and undivided attention. By giving your child the opportunity to talk, you show them that what they have to say does actually matter.
5. Respect your child’s privacy
Give your child a sense of privacy to show that you trust them. Knock before going into their room. Avoid talking about them in front of other adults, as this can be embarrassing. Respect is a two-way street and when you choose to model mutual respect, you will pave the way for raising respectful children.
6. Don’t interrupt
Don’t interrupt your child’s sentences, the game they’re playing, or the project they’re working on. Take note of what they’re concentrating on and allow them the opportunity to finish before switching their attention to something else.
7. Avoid baby talk
Once your child is older than a toddler, it’s a good idea to talk to them like the grownup you want them to become. It also boosts their confidence and improves their vocabulary and morale.
8. Demonstrate trust
Dr. Montessori once said, “We habitually serve children; and this is not only an act of servility toward them, but it is dangerous, since it tends to suffocate their useful spontaneous activity.”
A big part of instilling respect in your child is demonstrating that you trust them. A good way to do this is to give them the freedom to make their own decisions and then follow through with it. For example, allow your child to pour their own cereal (even if it makes a mess – which you will encourage them to clean themselves), carry their bowl to the table, and get dressed for school. These small acts will empower your child, boost their confidence and increase their ability and independence.
Give respect to teach respect
At LittleHill Montessori Preschool, our teaching approach is built around respecting children through self-directed learning, allowing them to explore their interests and make their own decisions. In this safe space, our directress pays attention to what is best for each individual child in order to empower them. If you’re interested in chatting to us or viewing one of our Montessori preschools near you, you’re welcome to contact us or book a free tour today.