Teaching Character Development in Early Childhood: Part 4 (Cooperation and Respect)

This is the fourth post in a monthly series that will be devoted to practical tips for using the Virtues language when teaching character development in early childhood. We’ll explain how we use this program in our classrooms, what it sounds like in conversation, and how you can use it at home in a variety of examples. We’ll be highlighting two Virtues each month, so be sure to subscribe to our blog for monthly Virtues tips that you can use at home!

If you missed the first posts in the series, you can catch up here:

And, if you haven’t already downloaded our mini guide — Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS, you’re going to want to do that now.

The Virtues Project™: Cooperation

Cooperation is working together and sharing the load. When we cooperate, we join with others to do things that cannot be done alone. We are willing to follow the rules which keep everyone safe and happy. Together we can accomplish great things.

– THE VIRTUES PROJECT™
Two children work together. Teaching Character Development in Early Childhood
Two friends working together and using cooperation to complete a Bank Game operation.

Cooperation is a big one. It encompasses everything needed to maintain a safe, happy learning environment at school and it is something that we talk about often.

As with all of the Virtues, cooperation is a tool we use, it is not something we are. A child is not cooperative or uncooperative, they are simply a child learning to respond to different situations. By teaching them to use cooperation in specific circumstances, we teach them that they are in control of their actions and this allows them to see that their choices affect others, for better or worse.

Here’s what it sounds like when we talk about Cooperation at school:

Acknowledgement: “I saw you using cooperation when I rang the playground bell! It makes it so much easier for us to all get inside for lunch quickly when we cooperate and line up as soon as we hear the bell!”

Guidance: “You boys have chosen to do this work together. Please remember to use cooperation and work together from beginning to end to make sure the work gets put away properly when you’re finished.”

Correction: “Please use cooperation and remember to walk inside the classroom. Using cooperation and following our classroom rules, like using walking feet when we’re inside, helps keep everyone safe.”

The Virtues Project™: Respect

We show respect by speaking and acting with courtesy. We treat others with dignity and honor the rules of our family, school, and nation. Respect yourself and others will respect you.

– THE VIRTUES PROJECT™
A child rolls a work rug. Teaching character development in early childhood.
We show respect for our classroom environment by rolling up our work rugs and keeping our classroom neat and clean!

Respect and Cooperation go hand in hand. When we cooperate by working together and following the rules, we demonstrate respect for ourselves, our peers, our teachers, and our school. BUT — here’s the part that most adults forget: Respect is a two-way street.

In order to gain a child’s respect, we have to first show respect for the child. The success of the Montessori method of teaching is due, in large part, to the respect that Montessori teachers have for the children in their care. We don’t just teach and expect cooperation and respect, we respect our students as people first and earn their respect and cooperation by leading by example.

Here’s what it sounds like when we talk about Respect at school:

Acknowledgement: “Thank you for being so careful with this new work; it shows me that you respect our classroom and the materials we share.”

Guidance: “Please remember to raise your hand during circle time and wait to speak until the other person is finished talking. It is respectful to wait your turn.”

Correction: “The next time you get upset, please remember that use respectful language at our school. That means we use polite words with our friends and teachers and we don’t use words that will hurt someone else’s feelings.”

Using Cooperation and Respect at Home

What goes around, comes around! If you make a conscious choice to respect your child’s thoughts, needs, and feelings, he or she will feel valued and seen and will, in return, be much more likely to cooperate! Is it a magical formula? Of course not, but it’s a pretty good start.

We all want to feel validated, seen, and appreciated and that goes for kids as well! Respect them, and they will respect you. Cooperate with the rules you’ve set for your household and they will learn that we all follow the rules!

Some things to consider:

  • Do you follow your own rules at home? Do you do what you’re asking your children to do? They’re going to follow your lead, so make sure you’re leading them in the right direction. Take off your shoes, make your bed, and eat your veggies! Put down your phone, make eye contact, and engage in polite conversation around the dinner table. Be the example you wish to see reflected.
  • How respectful is your language? Modeling good manners is important, if you want your child to pick up on good habits and practices. This includes while driving, so watch yourself! Say “please” and “thank you” to your children, your spouse, the grocery store clerk, and anyone else you encounter. Monkey-see, monkey-do.
  • Remember that in this day and age, social media- and the anonymity it often allows – has changed how we interact online; don’t let it change how you interact in life! Be polite, show respect, model courtesy, and cooperate, if you want your child to do the same!

For more information on the Virtues and for lots of examples you can use at home: Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS. Next month we’ll talk about Excellence and Creativity, so be sure to subscribe to our blog  to stay in the loop!

Additional Resources:

You Might Also Like These Posts from Children’s House Montessori School of Reston:

Like what you’re reading? Leave us a comment, share this article on Facebook or with a friend, and subscribe to our blog for weekly updates!

Leave a Reply