As parents and educators, we want children to grow up to be respectful to everyone, especially the workers who help make our communities work. But if you’ve ever seen an adult behaving disrespectfully to someone just trying to do their job — and who hasn’t? — you know respect for workers needs to be taught. That’s why nurturing good character is a part of our daily curriculum at Primrose schools.
You can help your child learn what it means to respect workers when your child is very young, and you should, says Lynn Louise Wonders, licensed therapist and child development and parenting expert.
“It will become a part of them if they learn early on,” she says.
Here are some ways to do it.
1. Model respect in your daily interactions.
This is the most important thing you can do to teach your child to show respect, Wonders says — show it yourself, to everyone you encounter. Say please and thank you to servers at restaurants, thank a first responder at the grocery store, learn your regular delivery person’s name and ask how they are doing. Your child will see this respect and that it makes people happy, and they will mimic you as they grow, Wonders says.
In Primrose classrooms, teachers use Molly℠ the cow to teach children that respect is about treating others the way you want to be treated, with civility, courtesy and dignity. Families can do the same at home and in the community.
“I’d make it a habit to say, ‘I really appreciate everything you do for our community. I don’t know what we’d do without you’ to people serving the community,” Wonders says. “The child will see it and hear it and the child will learn it.”
2. Talk about the contributions of people in your community.
Make connections for your child about what people do for work and how your family shows gratitude.
In the market, you can point out the woman who stocks the vegetables or the man who bags the groceries, and say something like, “They help make it possible for us to buy the food we eat.”
Then, let your child see you say thank you, as appropriate, or take steps to make people’s jobs easier (bagging some of your own groceries, for example, to lighten the load).
3. Involve your child in a thank-you gesture.
Children love being part of a project, so they’ll jump at a chance to make artwork or a gift for workers in your community. Your child could make a drawing for the mail carrier or garbage collector, or help you stock a cooler with cold drinks to leave on the porch for delivery people.
“It’s important for children to know that every job is important,” Wonders says.
4. Talk about your own work.
Help your child understand your work, both inside and outside the home, in terms they can understand. Talk about your favorite parts and the most challenging parts, and how you work with others to get the job done. You can share stories that show your respect for your co-workers and talk about when others showed respect to you.
For more parenting tips, check out:
- Happy Birthday to … Someone Else — How to Help Children Celebrate Others
- How Children Make Friends as They Grow
- 5 Calming Techniques to Help Children Work Through Big Feelings
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