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Sample Family Night Lesson: Respect

Introductory Comment:
Respect is not only an important value, but a source of real joy for children. Respect implies a certain appreciation and awe which makes children more aware of the needs and feelings of others. Respect comes in many forms: respect for life, for property, for parents, for elders, for nature, and for the beliefs and rights of others. Courtesy, politeness, and manners. Self-respect and the avoidance of self-criticism. This first week we will deal with respect in the broader sense and next week with the respect of politeness and manners.

The importance of and basic necessity for respect are self-evident. Respect is the basis and foundation (and often the motivation) for several of the other basic values of life. Children who learn both to implement and to understand the principle of respect will be better members of society, better friends, and better leaders.

The teaching of respect is an interesting and somewhat difficult proposition. The main thing to remember is that respect isn’t given consistently unless it is received. We need first to respect our children) in terms of how we speak to them and how we treat them) and then to absolutely demand that they show respect for us in return. The respect they receive in the home will be the basis for their own self-respect; and the respect they learn to show in the home (to family members) will be the foundation on which to build respect for others outside the home.

General Guidelines

Give plenty of praise and recognition. Reinforce respectful behavior and encourage its repetition. Make up your mind to watch for opportunities to praise courtesy and politeness during the month. Catch them doing something right and make a big deal of it. Praise them in front of other family members – and then try to remember to praise them privately, one on one, later the same day.

Give them a chance to correct themselves by saying, “Let’s start over.” This is a good method to correct disrespectful behavior in a positive way. Establish the pattern (and the habit, in connection with consistently not allowing disrespect in the home) of saying, “Let’s start over.” When a disrespectful answer is given, when someone fails to say “please” or “thank you,” say “Let’s start over.” Then repeat the situation, letting the child do it right. Do this with children of all ages. And when necessary, say, “Let’s start over” for yourself and then repeat your own statement or behavior in a more respectful way.

Teach by your example. Show respectful behavior. As always, example is the best teacher. During this month be ever-conscious of respect. Let your children see and hear you being concerned for the property and rights of others, assisting the elderly, caring for nature, being polite in all situations and showing self-respect in terms of how you look and how you speak of yourself.

Ideas for Elementary Age

The Definition Game. Use this game to get respect into the vocabulary of small children so that both you and they can use the word. Tell them that respect means “acting nice and talking nice and minding.” Then tell them about Mikey. Ask them whether he was showing respect after each sentence.

  • Mikey’s mom asked him to clean up his room and he yelled, “I don’t want to!” (No.)
  • He picked all the flowers out of his neighbor’s garden. (No.)
  • He said, “Please, may I be excused?” (Yes.)
  • He looked his grandpa in the eye and said, “Fine, sir,” when Grandpa said, “How are you?” (Yes.)
  • He left his friend’s toy out in the rain. (No.)
  • When he couldn’t put the puzzle together, he said, “I’m just stupid.” (No.)

The Role Playing Game. This game gives small children some grasp of why respect should be shown. You play the role of the child and let the child play the other roles. Act each out. Then ask, “How does that make you feel?”

  • Child says, “Thank you very much” when Grandpa gives him some candy.
  • Grass begins to die (child plays on grass) because child stomps on it instead of walking on the sidewalk.
  • Children are noisy in a class while teacher is trying to teach.
  • Child pushes himself in front of an older lady at the checkout stand in the grocery store.
  • Child holds his mother’s chair as they sit down to eat and then says, “Thanks for this nice dinner, Mom.”
  • Child is noisy in church and the lady next to him can’t hear the service.
  • Child keeps interrupting his mother while she is trying to talk to a friend who has stopped by.

The Red-Marks-and-Black-Marks Chart. This exercise can help little children “keep track” and count incidents of respect and disrespect. Prepare a simple chart with the child’s (or children’s) name(s) on it. Explain that whenever he does something that shows disrespect (yells at Mom, interrupts, demands something without saying please, etc.), he will get a black mark. Whenever he is polite or uses good manners, he gets red mark. Divide the chart by days and tell the child to see if he can get more red marks than black each day.

Ideas for Preschoolers

Expand the “Definition Game.” This can help children see that lack of respect hurts someone or something. Ask the questions from the Definition Game for preschoolers (above). Follow each questions with, “Who does that show disrespect for? And how does the disrespect make that person feel?”

The “Who and How” Chart. This helps children plan to be respectful. Set up a chart like the one illustrated below.

Using the left-hand column, ask children to list the categories of people and things that deserve respect. As you list them one at a time, discuss how respect for that person or thing can be effectively given. (E.g., for “Mother”: by “answering respectfully,” “by obeying her,” “showing appreciation for what she does,” “opening door,” “holding her chair,” etc. For “Nature”: by “preserving and protecting,” “clearing and cultivating,” etc. For “Self”: by “avoiding self-criticism,” “thinking about positive attributes,” etc.) Keep the list building as long as you can keep children’s interest.




Obey her
Talk respectfully

Story of a Great Man’s Respect for His Wife. Try to give your children a memorable example of respect. As the ninety-year-old religious leader got out of his car (driven by a chauffeur) to go into church, he needed help to climb out and to stand. Still, with a helper on each elbow, he insisted on walking around the car to open the door for his wife, also ninety years old, and to offer her his hand as she got out. Many of those who watched were impressed and overcome to the point of tears.

Ideas for Adolescents

Insult List. Point out the danger of talking negatively to and about yourself. This teaches the practice of self-respect. Take a blank sheet of paper and ask kids to think about names they have called themselves or insults they have said or thought about themselves. Approach it lightheartedly and with a little humor. Get it started by listing some things you have called yourself (“stupid,” “jerk,” “klutz,” “forgetful boob,” “idiot”) or sarcastic things you have said to yourself (“Oh, that’s really nice,” “Great show, dummy,” etc.).

When you have a substantial list, turn serious and say, “How would you feel if a friend or peer said those things to you?” Point out that deep down in our subconscious our own self-criticism is probably at least as harmful as the same words coming from someone else.

Case Study. Telling this story can help adolescents see that their happiness is connected both to the respect they receive and to the respect they give:

A family went to live in a foreign country for a year while the father completed a research project. The two teenagers, partly because they were very homesick, were critical and disrespectful of everything. They hated the narrow roads, the different fashions, the wet weather, the strange shops. They criticized and complained to each other and to anyone who would listen. Their parents kept telling them to grow up, to quit being so silly, to shut up if they couldn’t think of anything nice to say.

Why were the two teenagers so unhappy? (They weren’t giving respect – respect leads to positive attitudes and feelings. And they weren’t receiving respect – their parents belittled their feelings instead of trying to understand.)

The “What Does It Lead To” Game. This game can help adolescent and late-elementary-age children see the ramifications of respect and of its opposite. Do an arrow diagram on a chart of blackboard. Start with respect and rudeness and then let the children think of words that they lead to.

For example:
Rudeness –> selfishness –> enemies –> anger

Respect –> kindness –> friendliness –> understanding

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