Since establishing a new classroom management system recently, I have become a lot more sensitive to how I treat the children in my care. In short, I try to treat them with as much respect as I can, realizing that they are people with feelings just like adults. It doesn’t take a lot to hurt or damage a child’s feelings, especially since they haven’t learned how to handle their feelings yet.
That being said, I continuously witness people talking to and treating children with little or no respect, and the more I see it, the more it bothers me. The reason it bothers me so much is because I know that children who feel disrespected act out because they have learned no other way to handle what they are feeling at that time. I have seen massive, real changes in my classroom just in the last two months from implementing the simplest steps in how I interact with the kids in every situation, and it has made all the difference in the world as far as the behavior of the children in the class.
Disrespect to a child can come in many forms and for many reasons, but it really shouldn’t happen at all. I look at the situations that I see around me where disrespect is involved, and I think, “Would I want to be treated like that?” The answer, of course, is no.
One of the biggest areas where I see disrespect to children is in the area of punishment. I no longer use punishment in my classroom because I feel that it is the height of disrespect when it comes to children. I have also found that I don’t need to use punishment because I am constantly educating the children in my classroom in how to handle their emotions, how to treat the people around them, and how to treat all of the items in the classroom. I have found that when the children misuse something in the classroom, it is usually because I haven’t told them how it should be used. Either that, or the temptation to misuse a particular item is very strong. I mean, when you are on a diet, it is very hard to stay away from every slice of chocolate cake, right? Children have a natural tendency to use the items around them in accordance with their imagination, and anything can go. The job for the teacher or parent is to establish if what the child is doing is safe. If it is, let it happen! The child is probably enjoying using that item more for that purpose than any purpose that you could have come up with! But if the child is not being safe, it is time to step in and educate (not punish) the child on why their actions are not safe. If you punish the child instead of educating them, they have learned nothing from the experience and the unsafe behavior is actually more likely to happen again!
Have you ever witnessed a situation where a child was disrespected? What do you think the child was thinking at the time? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!