Teaching Respect And Values In Todays Society

The girl's jaw dropped in horror as the police officer spoke these words:

"Don't go there. Have you any idea how many kids have been stabbed in the past year? They'll kill you as soon as look at you. They have no respect for life."

The mother breathed a sigh of relief. She had come in to school to seek my help, as I was her daughter's Guidance Counsellor. We needed to convince the girl that the places she was frequenting were putting her very life in danger.

Fortunately a police officer was in school that day to speak to a Social Education class - and I got him to sit in on the interview.

So where was the young girl going that put her life in such peril? What underground haunts were enticing her?

None other than an area of the city where two school friends lived. But as you may guess, it was an area rife with drug abuse and its attendant crimes. Many people there had lost respect both for themselves and for life in general.

So how do we teach respect and values in a society that's rapidly becoming valueless?

Believe it or not, it's relatively easy!

All we have to do is go back to basics. Remember what Grandma used to say? - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

This might sound a bit 'corny' or 'naff' in today's world, but if ever a saying deserved to be revitalised and repeated again and again, this is it!

Today our kids need to learn RESPECT for themselves; for other people; for other people's rights, customs and valid beliefs; for property; for materials; and for the earth itself.

The more people who do this, the more we will have a counter-balance to the uncaring and disrespectful trends we see all around.

Yes, that's all very well, but HOW do we do it?

In two ways - and as I said, it's easy!

First and foremost MODEL the values and respect you wish your children to develop.

That's it. SHOW them by your own lifestyle. You don't even need to articulate these values - but as we'll see later, discussing them and commenting on them can make an even bigger impact.

Many successful parents are neither educated nor articulate, and they say very little. They let their actions speak louder than words.

There's nothing new in this. To use an old-fashioned phrase, these parents give a good example. (Some of today's psychologists think they've come up with a new approach when they talk about 'modelling appropriate behaviour patterns'. Yes . . !)

To be fair, many parents I talk to are unaware of the potential they have to influence their kids. It comes as a surprise to many to learn that THEY are the most influential teachers their kids will ever have.

Our children are like sponges. They soak up our attitudes, our habits, our speech patterns - our way of seeing the world.

So if YOU show respect for yourself, for others, for property and for the earth, you won't go wrong.

But you can enhance or reinforce this process by instructing your kids.

Without lecturing or 'sermonising' we can give guidelines for everyday activities. For example:

* leave the bathroom as you'd like to find it
* use resources like water carefully
* consider others by playing music softly or by using headphones
* give a helping hand in the classroom, in the playground, at home
* treat others with kindness, gentleness, care and sympathy
* look after yourself in the same way.

When bad or undesirable behaviour is modelled on TV or elsewhere, comment on it and discuss why we wouldn't do that.

In a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society, let's help our kids to tolerate, appreciate and even celebrate differences. Help them realise we all have different customs and habits, and there are pros as well as cons in these differences.

Help your child to be assertive. There's no need to be aggressive or offensive when defending our values. We should assert them proudly and courageously, and we should avoid a passive denial when others are mocking.

Lastly there's self-control. If you give a good example - sorry, if you 'model appropriate behaviour'! - AND teach your kids why it is important, then you and your family can face the future with confidence.

Happy parenting!

Why do some parents and children succeed, while others fail? Frank McGinty is an internationally published author and teacher. If you want to develop your parenting skills and encourage your kids to be all they can be, visit his web pages, AND

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