As pre-teens start to approach those tumultuous teenage years, parents often worry about how to keep them from turning into disrespectful and selfish teenagers. Modeling respect to your kids at an early age is essential for kids to grow-up valuing respect, according to family therapist Robert Navarra, Psy.D. However, you can reinforce the importance of respect to pre-teens with engaging and age-appropriate activities.
Sit down with your pre-teens to discuss what respect means to them and how to be respectful and show respect for themselves, adults, peers and things. Books can help reinforce the meaning and importance of respect. For kids ages 11 and up, "Respect Others, Respect Yourself" by Sara Medina talks about the different principles of respect in an age-appropriate manner. The book "Jackie Robinson: All I Ask is That You Respect Me as a Human Being" by Carin T. Ford, for ages 11 and up, provides kids with a real-world example of the importance of respect for others regardless of their background.
Ways to Show Respect
Divide the kids into four teams, with each team handling either respect for self, respect for peers, respect for adults and respect for things. Have the kids brainstorm and list ways that they show respect towards their specific subject, as well as examples of disrespect. Each group will present their lists to the rest of the kids. For another activity, have each group come up with some type of song or rap about ways to show respect. The most creative group wins a prize. Another idea is to create a respect scavenger hunt. Tape words related to respect, such as appreciation, honor and consideration, around the room. The team that finds the most positive words of respect as possible and provides examples of each wins.
Role Play Lessons on Respect
Role playing can provide pre-teens with examples of how to show respect in certain situations. Write down different two-person scenarios and put them in a jar. Randomly pick two kids at a time to pick a card. They have five minutes to come up with a short skit to show respect based on the scenario they chose. Examples of role-play scenarios include a teacher reprimanding a student about homework and a parent turning off the television and telling a child it is time for bed. After each scenario, discuss with the group and ask if anyone has alternative ideas to handling specific situations.
Give the pre-teens magazines and poster boards to create a respect collage. The collage should be made up of words or statements that show or define respect. The kids can also write out their own statements of respect on the poster board as well. Give them plenty of art supplies, including glitter, tissue paper and other materials to make their posters really stand out. Each child can then present his poster to the group. For another idea to show how all forms of respect are connected is to make a respect chain. Each child writes a respect-related word or phrase on a short rectangular piece of construction paper and then decorates around the words. Staple each piece of paper around another like a link chain, until you have one long chain which you can hang around the room.