Children To Love Themselves And Others
You have one of the world's most important jobs. You help children feel
strong, able, and loveable. Your positive, caring attitude is catching. As
caregivers, your job is to encourage children to think about how people
are alike and different, to ask all kinds of questions, and to find
answers they can understand. Your words and attitude tell children that
differences are wonderful.
From birth, children begin to learn to love themselves and others. Infants
and toddlers start to see differences between people. They notice skin
colors, hair colors and textures, eye shapes, and other features of race
and ethnic background. Toddlers may reach out to feel each other's hair.
Older 2-year-olds may stare or say things such as "What's that?"
Three-year olds figure out how to recognize boys and girls. Preschoolers
are curious, too. Will skin color wash off? Eye shape and color is of
great interest. Unfamiliar languages puzzle them. Even elementary-age
children seem "old." Preschoolers also notice that people have
different physical and mental abilities. Children often make comments that
By age 4, children are very much tuned in to our attitudes. They sense how
we feel about them and other people. Many children grow up feeling good
about who they are. "Here, let me do it," they volunteer. Most
children feel comfortable being around other people, too. They are eager
to have fun together. "Let's play firefighter!"
Many other young children already have negative ideas about themselves.
"I can't," they say. Or you overhear them mutter, "I never
do anything right." They may not know how to get along well with
other children. Such children may seem quiet and shy, or they may be
Preschoolers may even believe some common biases and stereotypes about
other people. They hear put-downs on TV. They see holiday decorations that
poke fun. They are indeed aware of what is happening around them and
How do you help children love themselves and others? First, look at your
own attitudes, values, and behaviors. Then, include activities to help
children appreciate each other's differences, develop a sense of fairness,
and learn to stand up for themselves and others.
Mr. Rogers said, We are all different in many ways, but sometimes children
are afraid to be different because they want to be like the people they
love. Some children may even come to feel there's something wrong with
being different. That's why grown-ups need to help children learn that
being different is part of what makes them special to the people who love
When you help children notice and accept, in fact, celebrate differences,
you pave the way to prevent prejudice and promote compassion, tolerance,
Reprinted from National Association
for the Education of Young Children