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Key Takeaways:

  • Respectful children are more curious about the world around them. They have positive social relationships and are good problem-solvers.
  • Some of the best ways to teach respect in the classroom are to lead by example, set clear guidelines, and encourage good behavior.
  • Involving parents and caregivers can help reinforce respect even outside of the classroom.

Honing a safe and respectful space in the classroom is essential to preventing bullying. In a school setting, respectful environments make students more comfortable talking openly about their needs and wants and freely expressing who they are. Here are ten fun and creative ways to teach kids respect in the classroom.

10 Ways to Teach Kids Respect in the Classroom

Respect is a fundamental part of any child’s early development. Here are ten simple ways to teach kids respect in the classroom.

1. Lead by example

Modeling respect is one of the simplest ways to demonstrate good behavior. Children often look to parents and caretakers for social cues. Children are more likely to follow suit when you treat others with respect.

Be mindful about saying please and thank you. Offer a helping hand if you see someone struggling. Wait for your turn. Your students will likely do the same.

2. Set clear guidelines

Children who know what respect looks like are more likely to demonstrate it. Setting your expectations for a kind and inclusive classroom will make it easier for students to master this skill.

Provide visual aids for your guidelines. Create a poster listing your classroom expectations. These might include raising your hand before you speak, asking for permission before you do something, and listening to others when they talk.

3. Encourage empathy

An empathetic child will be naturally respectful toward others. However, young children can be selfish and may have difficulties sharing or waiting their turn. Thus, teaching your students all about empathy can offer much-needed perspective.

Discuss how to respond empathetically to what others are feeling. Talk about facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language and how these indicators can convey happiness, sadness, or anger. Then, provide examples of how to respond.

For example, if you notice a child frowning and sitting alone, an appropriate response may be to ask what is wrong and whether the child needs company or the help of an adult.

4. Promote active listening

Good listeners better understand the world around them. Through active listening, children can become more aware of their classmates’ emotions and learn how to resolve conflicts [*].

You can enjoyably exercise a child's listening skills by playing listening games like Simon Says or Pass the Message.

5. Acknowledge respectful behaviors

Children respond well to praise and positive reinforcement. When you notice respectful behaviors like sharing toys, taking turns, and helping classmates with their schoolwork, recognize them. Children praised for positive behaviors are more likely to repeat them.

The simplest way to praise a child is with words. Tell them things like, “Great job on your test!” and “You did so well at the game today. I’m proud of you!” A positively reinforced child will be more willing to engage in continual improvement.

Positive reinforcement can also increase a child’s self-esteem, enabling them to be vulnerable and sensitive without feeling unsafe [*].

6. Teach conflict-resolution skills

Conflict resolution is a concept that may be challenging for younger children to grasp. However, arguments and disagreements are a fact of life that a child will eventually have to conquer.

The first step in teaching a child to solve conflicts is to help them calm down. You can practice achieving calmness through breathing exercises and meditation. When your student is calm, discuss their emotions. What led them to feel a certain way?

After discussing their emotions, have your student pitch solutions to their problem. Remind your student that the best solution may not always feel good and may require some sacrifice. Use our conflict resolution poster to provide perspective.

7. Encourage expression of gratitude and appreciation

Gratitude is an essential component of respect, and it entails more than just saying “thank you.” When children learn to demonstrate gratitude, they hone healthier social relationships and can solve problems with more ease.

You can foster gratitude in your students by having a gratitude jar or hosting daily gratitude circles. You can also encourage acts of kindness and model gratitude in your own life.

8. Promote respect for diversity

Talking openly about diversity in a classroom setting can inspire children to respect those around them. Embracing each other’s differences empowers children to approach other cultures with curiosity and openness.

Allow your students to ask open-ended questions without judgment, encouraging them to express their values and beliefs. If a child says or does something prejudiced, acknowledge these biases by explaining why they aren’t acceptable.

A fun and exciting way to introduce diversity in school is to choose monthly classroom themes that celebrate different cultures. For example, when the holidays roll around, you can explore various traditions and special occasions like Christmas or Hanukkah.

9. Address bullying and negative behavior

It’s a teacher’s job to provide safe and conducive spaces for learning. However, bullying is often inevitable—though it’s equally addressable.

Naturally, the best solution is prevention. Always voice your expectations in the classroom and encourage students to confide when they feel uncomfortable. Involve parents—host anti-bullying seminars and promote environments wherein participants feel comfortable voicing their concerns and are equipped with tools to understand how to respond when bullying occurs.

Support both the bullied and the bully. Perhaps both children have troubling family lives and require professional guidance.

10. Collaborate with parents and guardians

Teachers are no longer in control once their students leave the classroom. In the same light, parents may not be aware of how their children act in school. Thus, it’s essential for parents and teachers to collaborate to create respectful, safe, and positive environments for their children at home and in the classroom.

Host a “parents day” every quarter or semester, wherein parents can spend the day with their children in the classroom and learn alongside them.

You can also pitch an annual family day for games, lunch, and activities, allowing co-parents to get to know each other and meet school administrators.

The Bottom Line

Respect begins at home and in the classroom. By promoting respect, you can lay the foundations of positive interactions and an undying desire to learn.

Teaching respect need not be a headache. The above tips and activities can make the process simple and enjoyable. Explore our additional respect activities for kids to supplement your school curriculum.

Sources:

  1. Bodie G, et al. “The Role of “Active Listening” in Informal Helping Conversations: Impact on Perceptions of Listener Helpfulness, Sensitivity, and Supportiveness and Discloser Emotional Improvement.” Western Journal of Communication, 2015.
  2. Mruk C. “Self-Esteem and Positive Psychology: Research, Theory, and Practice.” Springer Publishing Company, 2016.

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