July 02, 2015

Q: My husband and I try to teach our 2 year old to be polite and respectful to others, but she is picking up a bad attitude from her daycare teachers. They seem to yell a lot at her and the other children and she is picking that up.  How can we change her attitude and continue to reinforce her positive manners?

A: The question that you pose is a hard one because it is natural that children learn how to interact with other people by mirroring their attitudes and behaviors. A child will view any adult whom the parents trust as a role model, and a 2 year old can't understand that you may not want her to act in the same manner as her teachers. Trying to scold or criticize her will be very confusing, and not only is she mirroring the aggression, she is also returning home from daycare in a state of distress and insecurity.  Because of this, she is likely to act in an impulsive, immature, and angry fashion.

Continue to reinforce manners that you consider appropriate.  One way is to find a daycare where children are treated with politeness and respect. If this is not possible, be patient and treat your daughter with kindness. By remaining patient, kind, and respectful, you wil show that you value her and that you have faith in her inner goodness.  In time your daughter will attend a different school with different teachers with better attitudes.

Answered by Dr. Elizabeth Berger