Teaching young children about Christian attitudes and actions is an important part of religious education for early childhood.
The word “attitude” is commonly defined as a way of acting, feeling, or thinking that shows one's disposition, opinion, or mental set. Adding the qualifier “Christian” to the word “attitude” adds a new and specific dimension, namely, to be Christ-like in the way we act, feel, and think.
During their early childhood years (ages 3-7) young children are very impressionable and open to attitude formation. Because of their dependency, young children are strongly influenced by their family and by their interaction with other children and adults. In the process, young children are forming attitudes about themselves and others that will contribute to their future thinking, feelings, and actions. At this age, effective modeling (good example) of Christian actions contributes toward their positive attitude formation.
At the same time, effective modeling along with planned activities can also help motivate the children to learn positive attitudes through their experiences of showing love for others. These practical experiences include listening, waiting, taking turns, sharing, giving, caring, and helping.
Young children need to feel welcomed in their family, in your class, in the community, and to be loved “unconditionally.” The children's formation of a positive sense of self-worth is the first major step toward the development of Christian attitudes.
The next challenge for parents and teachers is to affirm and build upon the children's self-worth and, then, to guide them to interact with others with the same kind of positive attitude and love that the children have for themselves. This focus outward (away from themselves) often begins with their desire to please their parents, teachers, older siblings, and playmates. Then, when offered positive reinforcement for pleasing actions toward others, young children are further motivated to help, listen, take turns, and share in ways similar to Christian actions they have seen or experienced.
Besides adult modeling and reinforcing positive self-concepts, dramatic role play can also foster the development of positive attitudes. During play experiences in a non-pressured atmosphere, young children can assume the character of someone else — mom, dad, or teacher. Then, while pretending to be that character, they can have an opportunity to begin to understand that other people have feelings and needs much as they do. For example, role-playing the mother or father in a house-keeping scene with a young son or daughter refusing to come in from playing when called for lunch, can help the child-character to experience parental concerns when a child in the family is reluctant to respond to their call. Granted these experiences may only spark a slight awareness, nevertheless, they stimulate the attitude-learning process.
As a teacher, it is important to remember that you are a role model for the students. When you talk to your class about God's love for them and then show love and concern, the children will often identify and measure God's love for them by your actions.