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October 21, 2023

How to Build a Respectful Setting

Encouraging respectful relationships between individuals we support.

Respect means thinking about the feelings, wishes, and rights of another person. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “treat others as you want to be treated”? When we show respect for someone, we don’t have to agree with them, or even like them, but we can still behave politely towards them.

So how can you teach those in your care both to respect other people and have respect for themselves?

Respect starts with recognising differences

We’re all different. We have our own likes and beliefs, hobbies and personalities, and we look and sound different to each other. Some of these differences are protected by the Equality Act to make sure we’re all treated fairly in society.

Being different is obvious to most adults, but it can come as a surprise to some individuals in our care. Younger children, in particular, can assume that everyone is just like them. It can shock them to find there are lots of different families who make different choices from their own. You may find, after a playdate, social event or outing, that the individuals you work with are likely to tell you all about the things people did differently to what is familiar to them.

The individuals you support may notice other differences, such as:

    • Physical differences, including hair and skin colour, height, and size

    • Characters and personalities

    • Beliefs and backgrounds

    • Making different choices

Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable when individuals point out these differences. You may feel unsure about what is best to say or be unclear about the correct terminology. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer. Perhaps you can look it up together and talk about what you’ve found out.

Talking about being different

Talk about differences as being something to be enjoyed and celebrated. You might say, “Wouldn’t it be boring if everyone were exactly the same as us?”

Books can be a great resource to celebrate differences in a range of contexts. Don’t just concentrate on what makes us different from each other; look for similarities too. It is important to stress that we have lots of things in common.

Modelling respect

The children, young people and adults we support learn from seeing the way we behave and copying it. When they see us showing respect for others, they’re more likely to do the same thing themselves.

There are lots of ways we can show respect for others:

    • Using please and thank you with everyone – including those who look after our work spaces

    • Listening when someone else is speaking

    • Keeping calm and polite, even if we feel angry or frustrated

    • Respecting different opinions, especially if we don’t share them

    • Politely sharing our own opinions and being open to changing our views

As a professional, you can model respectful relationships with others by showing them what good communication looks like over the course of your day.

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