Games for Teens to Teach Respect

by Darlena Cunha

    The teenage years are no picnic for anyone involved, but between all the sassing and back-talk and disobedience, if you've done your job as a parent, your child most likely respects and loves you. She's just having a hard time showing it. As your teen struggles to grow into her own person, there are going to be bumps in the road, many for which you'll be blamed. When instilling respect in her, start early and make it fun.

    When you and your teenager hit a particularly rough patch, stop yourself from feeding into the frustration. Change the scenery and the subject and put yourself on an even playing field with him. Education.com advises doing something pleasant together, like taking a walk or going shopping. The rule during this outing for both of you is that neither can speak disrespectfully to the other one. If someone does, there will be no anger, just a point system. He rolled his eyes at you would be a point for you. You chided him about his fashion sense would be a point for him. Then you laugh and move on. It's up to you to keep this light. Too much emotion and you'll end up back in your old fights in no time.

    Oftentimes, a less direct approach is better. If you're in charge of a group of teenagers, one way to teach them respect is to show them that their perceptions are rarely reality. An academic paper put out by the University of North Carolina called "Team Building Exercises for Teens" advocates a simple party game to get this point across. Have everyone in the group write down what their biggest personality strength is. These could be words like bravery, commitment or intelligence. Then put all the notes in a pile. Have one teen draw a note from the pile and try to guess whose trait it is. They might learn something about someone that they didn't know, and they'll learn to respect attributes that they cannot immediately see in others.

    Encourage a group of teens to imagine themselves in different stressful situations and act out what they would do. In the video guides, Good Character, the narrator shows a traffic jam situation in which the teen would have to cross two lanes to get to an exit in bumper-to-bumper traffic. You don't need the videos to come up with your own scenarios, though. Call it "What would you do?" and start your questions that way. What would you do if someone stole your favorite shirt? What would you do if you saw someone trip a kid you didn't know in the hallway. What would you do if your best friend stole candy from the corner store? Have each of the kids really think about these situations and react. If they think of something disrespectful, validate their feelings, but gently correct how they might go about it and give them alternatives.

    One of the best ways to promote respect is to give your child a task to complete every day to remind him of it. Dr. Michele Borbas suggests a project in which the teen gives a compliment to a different person every day. This promotes ongoing respect and soon the complimentary tone will be second nature to your child. He will begin to see the better side of people simply through practice. And by giving him a challenge, where he reports his good deeds to you at the end of each day, you've put the topic at the front of his mind.

    About the Author

    Darlena Cunha has been a writer and editor since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Connecticut. Cunha is also completing her master's degree in mass communication.

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