Parents Teaching Children Character: Respect vs. Ego

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Parenting Value: Respect, Part 1.  General Guidelines. Don’t miss these helpful points on character education.

Richard and Linda Eyre

key Children born between 1980 and 1995, called “millennials,” now saturate the job market …They are typically demanding, impertinent, and narcissistic. They need constant affirmation and expect to be catered to. ~Reb Bradley

childhelpingotherMore respect for others, less egocentric. Becoming more extra-centered and less self-centered. Learning empathy. ~ Richard and Linda Eyre

Some children have a natural and seemingly inherent sense of caring and sensitivity. Such cases are rather rare, however, and the self-centered “surrounded by mirrors” perspective of life is typical of most children, particularly adolescents. In fact most of the problems teenagers face (whether taking the form of rebellion or of extreme shyness and withdrawal) stem from their rather intense preoccupation with self.

Sample Method for Preschool Age: “Put Yourself in the Picture” Game

This game lets children practice at empathizing with someone they have never met or spoken to. Watch for pictures in magazine that show people in situations that are unusual to you and your children. These could range from a man on a horse in the mountains to a girl in a magazine clothing ad. Almost any magazine has several pictures or advertisements that will work for this exercise.

The game consists of looking at the picture and attempting to describe how the person in the picture feels. This can start on a physical level as you try to imagine what he sees and hears, whether she is cold or warm, and so forth. Then try to go beyond the physical and speculate how he or she might feel emotionally. Have a discussion about it. Let each person imagine how the subject feels and express his or her own observations.

A variation of the game is to give each player a different picture to study, then have them give a short speech or write a brief theme on what the subject feels.

Sample Method for Elementary Age: The Noticing Game

boytieshoeThis game trains children to see more that is outside themselves and thus to be less self-aware. Form a habit of playing “the noticing game” when you are traveling or going to any unfamiliar place with children. Ask them, without notice or warning, to close and cover their eyes. Then ask them to describe, as best they can, the room or scene they are in (the walls, the lighting, the carpet, the trees, the sky, etc.). Let them also play the game on you. The exercise in observing and being aware of where you are and what is around you is good training for empathy and sensitivity.



Sample Method for Adolescents: The Mirror-Window Lesson

Make an effort to tell your children how the things they do make you feel. This will help children be more aware of your feelings and be more sensitive toward them. If a teenager tells you that you are weird, tell him that that hurts your feelings. Sometimes children think of parents as people on whom they can vent their feelings without making a dent.

This lesson can help adolescents conceptualize and appreciate the difference between self-centeredness and extra-centeredness. Try to get a piece of one-way glass (mirror windowfrom one side, window from other). If you can’t find one, a plain piece of glass will do. Point out that when it is dark behind the glass, it is a mirror — all you see in it is yourself. When it is light behind it, you see through it — you see other people and not your own reflection. Point out to your children that life is much the same. When our minds are dark and self-centered, we only see ourselves (“What’s best for me?” “How will that affect me?” “What can this person do for me?”) In this mode we are always unhappy and self-conscious.


youthservingBut when we light up and look at other people — trying to listen, trying to see their needs, and so on — we “lose ourselves” and quit worrying about ourselves and feeling self-conscious.

Remember that unselfishness does not come naturally. Try to maintain your patience as you implement this “month.” Everyone, although in varying degrees, is born with a certain amount of selfishness. There is no quick fix for learning to be unselfish. It is a process that takes thinking and practicing and a certain amount of maturity to develop.


Parenting: Teaching Respect

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

Teaching Respect


Richard and Linda Eyre

Part 1: By Objective (Be sure to check out the good ideas here)Parenting Value: Respect


family4keyRespect 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.

Sample Method for Preschoolers:

The Red and Black Marks Chart

This exercise can help preschool 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 a red mark. Divide the chart by days and tell the child to see if he can get more red marks than black each day.

Sample Method for Elementary Age:

“Who and How” Chart

This helps elementary age children plan to be respectful. Set up a chart, perhaps on a large poster board, looking something like this:

Respect Chart




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.

Sample Method for Adolescent Age:

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 or 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

Christian Traditions: Teaching Prayer and Respect

Nine Principles for a Successful Marriage and Family

By Jennifer Grace Jones

In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” nine basic principles for strong, gospel-centered families are given: “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities” (Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129).

1. Faith

“Faith is confidence and trust in Jesus Christ that lead a person to obey him.”

family6praying“As parents, we have been commanded to teach our children ‘to understand the doctrine of … faith in Christ the Son of the living God’ (D&C 68:25). …

“There is no other thing in which we can have absolute assurance. There is no other foundation in life that can bring the same peace, joy, and hope. In uncertain and difficult times, faith is truly a spiritual gift worthy of our utmost efforts. We can give our children education, lessons, athletics, the arts, and material possessions, but if we do not give them faith in Christ, we have given little.” ~ Kevin W. Pearson

2. Prayer

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”

Bible Dictionary, “Prayer.”

The Savior then commanded the little children to be brought to Him and commanded the multitude to kneel down. He knelt in the midst of the children and began praying. The people were overcome with joy after hearing His prayer, and they bore this testimony: “The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father.” (See 3 Nephi 17:1–17.)

3. Repentance

“Repentance implies that a person turns away from evil and turns his [or her] heart and will to God.”

“Today is always a better day to repent than any tomorrow. … Even should we be forgiven at some later time, the Lord cannot restore the good effects our repentance today might have had on those we love and are to serve. That is particularly poignant for the parents of young children. In those tender years there are chances for shaping and lifting spirits which may never come again. But even the grandfather who may have missed chances with his own children might, by choosing to repent today, do for grandchildren what he once could have done for their parents.” ~ Henry B. Eyring

4. Forgiveness

“To forgive generally means one of two things: (1) When God forgives men, he cancels or sets aside a required punishment for sin. … (2) As people forgive each other, they treat one another with Christlike love.”

From the Life of Jesus Christ

A Pharisee named Simon asked the Savior to come eat dinner. While they were eating, a woman who was known in the city as a sinner came to Jesus and stood nearby weeping. She knelt at the Savior’s feet and washed them with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with ointment. Simon watched the woman and thought, “This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him.”

The Savior then turned to Simon and taught him a parable:

“There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

“And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both.”

Then Jesus asked Simon, “Which of [the debtors] will love [the creditor] most?” Simon answered that it was probably the debtor who was forgiven the greater debt. Jesus then turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Seest thou this woman? … Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” Then He promised the woman, “Thy sins are forgiven. … Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” (See Luke 7:36–50.)

5. Respect

“To consider worthy of high regard.” ~Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (2003), “respect.”

“When we have sampled much and have wandered far and have seen how fleeting and sometimes superficial a lot of the world is, our gratitude grows for the privilege of being part of something we can count on—home and family and the loyalty of loved ones. We come to know what it means to be bound together by duty, by respect, by belonging. We learn that nothing can fully take the place of the blessed relationship of family life. …

“Brethren, let’s treat our wives with dignity and with respect. They’re our eternal companions. Sisters, honor your husbands. They need to hear a good word. They need a friendly smile. They need a warm expression of true love.” ~ Thomas S. Monson

6. Love

“Deep devotion and affection. … The greatest example of God’s love for his children is found in the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ.”

From the Life of Jesus Christ

On the eve of His Crucifixion and hours before the agony of Gethsemane, Jesus Christ observed a final Passover with His Apostles. When the meal concluded, Jesus “knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own unto the end.” The Savior then rose from supper and girded Himself with a towel. He filled a basin with water and washed His disciples’ feet. When He had finished, He gave them a new commandment:

“Love one another; as I have loved you. …

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples.” (See John 13:1–5, 34–35.)

7. Compassion

“Literally ‘to suffer with.’ It also means to show sympathy, pity, and mercy for another.”

From the Life of Jesus Christ

In a particularly touching account, Jesus approached the city of Nain, where He saw a funeral procession for a young man—“the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” When the Savior saw how many people from the city were with the woman and how deeply she grieved, He “had compassion on her.” He touched the stretcher where the young man lay and said, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” Immediately the man sat up and began to speak, and the Savior delivered him to his suffering mother. (See Luke 7:11–15.)

8. Work

“To exert oneself physically or mentally especially in sustained effort for a purpose.” ~Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (2003), “work.

family7gardening“Teaching children the joy of honest labor is one of the greatest of all gifts you can bestow upon them. I am convinced that one of the reasons for the breakup of so many couples today is the failure of parents to teach and train sons in their responsibility to provide and care for their families and to enjoy the challenge this responsibility brings. Many of us also have fallen short in instilling within our daughters the desire of bringing beauty and order into their homes through homemaking. …

“[My father] instilled in me a joy and appreciation for honest labor and prepared me for that time in my life when I would have the responsibility of providing for a family. The principles I was taught by my wise father of honest labor, of not wasting, of discipline, and of seeing a task to its completion were basic to my success.” ~ L. Tom Perry

9. Recreation

Healthy, virtuous activities that refresh the strength and spirit of all involved.

family4picnic“Just as honest toil gives rest its sweetness, wholesome recreation is the friend and steadying companion of work. Music, literature, art, dance, drama, athletics—all can provide entertainment to enrich one’s life and further consecrate it. At the same time, it hardly needs to be said that much of what passes for entertainment today is coarse, degrading, violent, mind-numbing, and time wasting. Ironically, it sometimes takes hard work to find wholesome leisure. When entertainment turns from virtue to vice, it becomes a destroyer of the consecrated life.” ~ D. Todd Christofferson