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TEACH RESPECT

United against Prejudice and Discrimination

Children respecting children

© UNICEF Malaysia/2011
Encourage children to be agents of change by empowering them to stand up against prejudice and discrimination. When children know how to respond to negative attitudes and behaviours they witness, they can help promote respect in their communities.

The responsibility to protect children from all forms of discrimination, prejudice and abuse, including bullying, is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and other adults in the community who are in contact with children. Here are some ways to help teach children respect.

Nurture empathy

Empathy is what moves children to be tolerant and compassionate, to understand other people’s needs and to care enough to help those who are hurt or troubled.

All children are born with the capacity for empathy. Empathy however must be nurtured. Children need a positive, caring relationship with their parents or caretakers for them to care about others. Children who have a healthy self-esteem and feel good about themselves will be able to recognise and respond effectively to the feelings of others.

When a child hurts another child through words or actions, explain in simple words how the hurt child feels. Focus on feelings, not actions, and express concern for both children in such a situation. Teach children that no child should be teased or excluded because of their race, religion, nationality, social class, gender or appearance. Explain to them the challenges faced by children living with disability or an illness like AIDS. Caring, empathic children are less likely to be prejudiced and will be able to celebrate the diversity in their society.

Promote respectful behaviour

Encouraging children to respect themselves and others will help to eliminate injustice, hate and violence. Respect needs to start at home. Begin by helping children to feel good about themselves. Compliment them when they do something well or when they do something considerate for someone else. Let them know that their caring behaviour makes you feel proud.

Recognise however that children may sometimes use words or do things without realising that these are wrong. Be patient and do not overreact. Instead help them understand that such words and deeds are hurtful and disrespectful to the other child. Start a conversation with them and explain what these words mean, why they are hurtful and how it will contribute to prejudice, discrimination and hatred in society. Be clear that being disrespectful to anyone is unacceptable behaviour.

Help children understand the benefits of good behaviour. By promoting respectful language skills and building character when children are young, we will help prevent problems from developing later

Be a role model

Children count on their parents, teachers, older siblings and other adults to serve as guides for what is right and wrong. The examples we set are the most powerful influences that shape a child's behaviour and personality.

If men and women do not treat each other equally, the child will observe, learn and probably copy this behaviour. If adults shout, behave violently, exclude or discriminate against certain groups of people or communities, children will learn this type of behaviour. On the other hand, parents who are sympathetic to the feelings of others and rise to a need for help, especially when it is not in their own best interest, can teach children important lessons on respectful behaviour. In school, the most effective teachers are warm and affectionate — and when trying to correct bad behaviour they remain calm, not punitive.

As adults, we need to be models of altruism, compassion and caring so children will copy such behaviours. When we treat others with kindness, respect and patience, children will follow this example.

Empower children

Encourage children to be agents of change by empowering them to stand up against prejudice and discrimination. When children know how to respond to negative attitudes and behaviours they witness, they can help promote respect in their communities.

Use role plays to enable children to feel and appreciate the feelings of a child who is vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination. Help children by giving examples on how they can respond to prejudiced thinking or acts of discrimination. For example, they may react to another child being called a hurtful name by simply saying, "Don't call him/her that. Call him/her by his/her name." Or, a child who is the victim can say, "Don't call me that. That's not fair." or "You don't like to be called bad names and neither do I."

Motivate children to take responsibility for their words and actions, and to promote such responsibility amongst their friends. By talking with children, we can give them tools to process and filter what they experience when adults are not around, and to behave respectfully to others.

 

 

 

 

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