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Teaching Values to Preschoolers

Lassie's Story

Use the following story to introduce the terms loyalty and dependability to small children; enhance and embellish the simplified story with your own goals:

Billy lived on a big farm with lots of space, so his parents let him have a dog. He called his dog Lassie. Whenever Billy called Lassie's name, the dog would come, and whenever Billy held out his hand, Lassie would put up his paw for a shake. You could depend on Lassie to do these things. Lassie was a dependable dog.

Almost everywhere Billy went, Lassie followed. At night Lassie slept at the bottom of Billy's bed. If Billy ever got in any trouble, Lassie was there to help. Lassie was loyal because he cared about Billy and was always there when he needed him.

One day Billy wandered into a field where a big bull lived. The bull charged toward Billy. Billy called as loud as he could for his loyal dog who was close by. He knew he could depend on him. Lassie rushed into the field and barked at the bull. The bull turned around and went back to eat his grass.

The Pick-the-Right Answer Game

This game can help small children who have started reading to understand and even use the words loyal and dependable.

Prepare a "windowpane" chart that shows the two words and their opposites:

dependable undependable
loyal disloyal

Explain that you are going to tell a little story about several people and you want the child to point to the word on the chart that describes how the person is acting or behaving.

  • Timmy's dad asked him if he would stack up some bricks in the garage. Timmy said he would, but he forgot and didn't do it. (Undependable)

  • Janet's school class planned to have a car wash in the school parking lot to raise money. Those who could were asked to come and help, but no one had to come. Janet came and brought some towels and a bucket. (Loyal -- to her school.)

  • Crissy's family job was to set the table each night for dinner. She almost always remembered to do it without her mother reminding her. (Dependable)

  • Tammy was with two girls on the bus one day when one of the girls said some bad things that weren't true about Tammy's best friend, Jill. Tammy didn't say anything. (Disloyal -- to her friend.)

  • Jason's little brother had a Little League game one night. Jason had a lot of homework, but he worked hard at it until game time and then went to cheer for his brother. (Loyal -- to his brother)

  • The elderly widow who lived next door to Mary had a favorite plant that needed watering every day. She asked Mary if she would water it for a week while she was on vacation. Mary did it for four days, but then she forgot. (Undependable)

  • Alice always thought about the Pledge of Allegiance when her class said it. She felt proud to be an American. (Loyal -- to her country.)

Family Traditions

These can help small children feel the security of belonging to a strong family, to an institution for which they can feel loyalty. Develop a simple family slogan and motto and say them together every day for a while. Then perhaps once a week. Create simple family traditions (often built around holidays or birthdays) that you repeat year after year. Have one ongoing family tradition of supporting other family members in their activities. (Attend games, performances, etc.)

"Starting Over"

Give your children second chances to be dependable. When small children fail to do something they've said they will do, say, "Let's start over and do this right. Let's be dependable. Let's pretend I've never asked you to do that. Now I'm going to ask you -- and let's see what you do."

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