We all have emotions – they come naturally. What we are not born with is the knowledge of how to harness those emotions so they serve us well. Teaching about emotions is not about hiding or eliminating feelings. Most emotions can be both beneficial and problematic. For example, anger might lead some people to act violently, but it can also lead people to seek justice.
As in most areas, children look to their child care providers as role models. How you treat others will be the most important lesson children will learn about how they should treat others. You can also:
- Help children learn to name the emotions they are experiencing – “I see that you are frustrated.” And let children know how to appropriately express those emotions: “When you are frustrated you may not grab, but you may ask for a turn or you may ask me if there is another yellow crayon you can use.”
- Recognize children’s accomplishments and celebrate them. Praising children for everything detracts from their ability to develop self-esteem. But recognizing true accomplishment, even when if the accomplishment seems trivial from an adult perspective (e.g., drinking from a glass for the first time without spilling or button one’s own sweater) does build confidence and makes children want to continue to try new things and build new skills. Let all children know that they can accomplish anything with practice and perseverance.
- Use discipline instead of punishment. In discipline, you teach children what to do, not just what not to do. You can also involve children in making rules. This gives them practice in problem solving, helps them see themselves as part of the group, and makes it more likely that they will cooperate.
- Have developmentally appropriate expectations. A one-year-old child is not yet ready to share a favorite toy. But a four-year-old can begin to use sharing strategies like taking turns or playing with a toy together.
Because our days with children are filled with social interactions, and because everyone experiences emotions every day, you will have thousands of opportunities to guide the social and emotional development of the children in your care. For more ideas on how, you can watch A Place of Our Own and visit the websites below.
As child care providers get to know each child, one very important factor is getting to know their family and heritage. Respecting family customs is critical to helping children build pride and self-esteem. It is also vital to maintaining positive relationships with the parents of children in your care.
Incorporating the widest possible variety of religions, races, family structures, and ethnicities helps prepare children to live in our increasingly diverse nation. And because the United States is so diverse, teaching children to respect those who are different from themselves is a basic life skill.
Whether or not adults talk about differences, children notice them. Even very young children know there are differences between people. What they don’t know -- and what they learn from us -- is what those differences mean. Which differences matter and which do not? Which features change over time (like height) and which will not (like eye shape and color)? The way we behave towards people, the language we use, the things we teach and the things we leave out, play a critical role in how children feel about themselves and others.
Ultimately, no matter how alike they seem, every child is unique and children will inevitably encounter difference. To find out more about caregiving strategies that are developmentally appropriate, that are inclusive, and that model respect for diversity, you can watch A Place of Our Own and visit these websites: