Respect for others doesn’t just happen -- you’ll need to instill this attitude into your child to ensure he treats others with kindness and empathy. Although respect has many facets, respect for other people’s property is a major principle for kids to understand and practice. Hands-on and visual activities drive home this lesson in a way children will remember.
Discussing the Issues
Raise awareness of other people’s property with your child so she understands the difference between what’s hers and what isn’t hers. Her own property includes her clothing, her toys, her school supplies and other items given specifically to her. Other people’s items extend to everything else. You might take a walk outdoors as you’re discussing property to give your child some examples of another type of property -- public property. Walk by public parks, schools, a library and churches, talking about these places as spots where everyone shares and uses the property together. Because everyone likes the park and wants to use it, everyone also has a responsibility to take care of it and use it properly. Talk about how she might feel if people broke her favorite toy, and extend that to how others might feel if the swings were broken or mean words were written where everyone would see them.
Help your child make a collage that shows boundaries between personal and public or other people’s property. On one half of the paper, have her cut out magazine pictures of items she owns -- perhaps toys she owns, clothing, a bike or books. On the other half of the paper, she could cut out photos of other items that belong to other people. Possible pictures might be a scooter belonging to someone else, a cat, a fountain in the downtown square, the swings at the park and the library. As your child works on the collage, talk about showing respect for other people’s property by not touching it without permission or making sure she uses it carefully so other people will be able to enjoy the property when she's finished with it.
A cursory glance around a park or other common area is sure to show a smattering of litter marring the environment. You can teach an effective respect for public property by organizing a litter-patrol party, advises Laura A Riffel, Ph.D., with the Behavior Doctor website. Choose a pleasant day and visit the park with a trash bag to rid it of any garbage and detritus littering the ground. As you work, help your child see how exciting it is to help keep the park looking nice and to show respect for this public property.
Your child will have times when it may be difficult to show respect for other people’s property. Roleplaying can help him navigate future situations successfully. For example, if he sees his brother’s electronic game sitting unused on the counter, instead of picking it up and using it, he should ask first before touching it. Help your child think of a respectful way to ask for permission from his brother to use the game.