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Respecting Differences: Everyday Ways to Teach Children About Respect

By Elizabeth Erwin, Ed.D.

Montclair State University

And Leslie Soodak, Ph.D.

Pace University

Boy meets girlNow more than ever, people are aware of the importance of teaching children to respect people of various sizes, abilities, ethnicities and ages. When children respect themselves and others, they feel good about who they are. When children learn to value people who are different from themselves, they are better prepared to live peacefully in a diverse world.

Because children learn during everyday moments, it is important that adults remain aware of what we say and do. Children can learn that people are more alike than different, and that all people (no matter what color, size, ability or age) want love, joy and security. It all depends on the messages they're hearing and behaviors they’re observing.

We can model respect in our everyday interactions, so that our children learn to value all people. Let’s teach all children by pointing out positive messages in stories, television programs or advertisements.

Messages play an important role in how children learn. Children today are getting multiple messages from media and society. By becoming more aware of the messages our children are faced with each day and by focusing on the positive ones, we can influence the messages that our children are receiving. When we see negative messages or stereotypes, we can use those as teachable moments to discuss what we’re seeing.

NEXT: The Power of Words

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