You may have noticed that toddlers and preschoolers don’t exactly have polite behavior down pat. Are they cute? Yes. Funny? Of course. Sweet? The sweetest. But kindness, generosity, and respect are qualities which must be taught and modeled at home in order for young children to begin to display them.

child holding up please signPay your children respect. Parents can show respect to their children in ways they often don’t consider. Be consistent, as changing up the rules from day to day is confusing and disorienting. Explain yourself. When you tell your child not to do something, or need their cooperation, explain why. Children understand more than they let on. Cooperate with your child. If she is fully engaged in play with a beloved toy, and you need to go grocery shopping, tell her that in ten minutes, you’ll be heading to the store and will need her to stop playing. This shows respect for the way she spends her time.

Model polite language. When you thank your child for cleaning up a mess, you are teaching him to express his gratitude when someone helps him or performs a kindness. When you say “please” when asking him to put on his shoes, you are teaching him that people do not make demands on one another; they ask with respect. Think about the words you use in front of your child, and he will mimic your words.

Teach empathy. Toddlers begin to develop empathy between the ages of two and three, but it’s up to parents to nudge them along. When you know that a sibling is feeling sad, encourage the other sibling to recognize those feelings of sadness, and maybe react to them with a hug or an offered stuffed animal. When your child feels angry, let him know that you understand that he’s angry. Empathy must be nourished in order to grow.child holding thank you sign

Use books to teach your child lessons. There are a number of books which offer lessons on respect, kindness, and generosity. Since reading is a fun activity you can do together, your child may respond better to reading about respectful behavior than she might respond to a lecture from you! Do Unto Otters, The Way I Act, and A Chair for my Mother are excellent examples of books you can read you’re your child. Speak you’re your daycare provider about the books they use to teach toddlers and preschoolers about respect and kind behavior.

Inspire your child to take action. When someone gives a gift, remember to sit down together and write a thank you letter. If a family in your neighborhood has had a new baby, cook a meal together for that family and deliver it together. Find local volunteer opportunities which allows kids to participate.

How are you teaching and modeling respect to your kids? Let us know in the comments section.