If you want your child to be calm, you have to be calm. If you want your child to be respectful, you must be respectful to your child. Children repeat what they hear and what they see. They also absorb the same energy you put towards all of your actions and requests. You must model what you want to see in your child.
In the classroom, I strive to model exactly the same behavior that I expect to see the children exhibit. If I ask the children to eat only at the snack table, and to sit down to eat, then I must do the same. I can’t snack between lessons or eat standing up. It’s not good enough to say “You can’t do that, but I can, because I’m the teacher.” Young children usually don’t understand those words, and if they do, they are faced with a contradiction that doesn’t make sense. At best, it puts the adult in a position of an authoritarian rather than a model or a guide, which is not the position I want to be in.
It is a mistake to think that children “don’t notice” things that you do or say. In my experience, it’s safer to assume that children notice EVERYTHING. Montessori philosophy suggests that children (0 – 6 years of age) absorb everything in their environment, without consciousness, without exception, without bias, without selecting or making a choice. Whether good or bad, children absorb EVERYTHING. In my experience this is true.
Children naturally want to be involved in the adult’s world, and children naturally want to contribute and look to the adult to learn about the world around them. Whatever they see the adult do, they will also do. Whatever they hear the adult say, they will repeat those words.
If I react to the children in anger and with frustration, children will learn to follow that example in their interactions with others. Of course, I do get angry and frustrated, but I must make every effort to keep those emotions in check, and make a conscious decision to model a peaceful solution. This is not always easy to do, but understanding the child’s stage of development, and the child’s current understanding of the world, is critical to raising peaceful children. They need that model from us, if that’s what we want them to learn.