By Linda Raas

 Definite changes concerning the issue of RESPECT within our society as a whole, have taken place since the 1950’s. More and more, we see those who step over that invisible line, with behaviors that they allow themselves to exhibit unchecked, from someplace deep within. Today, people feel at risk on the highways, in the schools, at work. Where the rage is coming from is complex, to be sure. While we are in this present phase of Retro from the 50’s being ‘in’ and fashionable once more, maybe we could also revisit some of the values that were present at that time. Respect was emphasized, and ran like a thread through the society at a much higher-level, than it does today. Respect is a building block for our children’s future, and that of our society’s structure. Respect breeds kindness in a society, and is a key character trait on which other values can build.

Media is a big influence on all our lives in any time period. Today, many Sitcoms, the Cartoon fare, music, and video games insidiously seep in, and many continually feed, images of disrespect of ‘kids to parents’ and of ‘kids to kids’, laying down a foundation for hostile actions and violence being acted out. These constant images are a real problem, and one to take seriously.

“Lighten up!” they say? When Respect is sacrificed without showing consequences for doing so, there is a price to pay. Our children are paying that price. Don’t allow yourself to think it isn’t a big deal. It is a very big deal. Even if a kid is so street smart that he or she has ‘seen and heard it all’, it doesn’t mean that the child needs to see or hear anymore of it. Attitudes are being learned and absorbed continually. Our children are like sponges, absorbing all that is around them, the good stuff, and the bad stuff together.

A child’s forming attitude of respect is a very important thing to guide in them. Their attitude of respect can, and will be, a future protection for them. Not only will it lead to a happier and better life, but children and adults who have a basis of respect in their integrated value system, are not as readily affected by violent scenes that they may and will have occasion to see, as are those children and adults who do not have this basis of respect as part of their integrated value system. If respect is the cornerstone of a person’s value system, this will in the end, make a difference in HOW they react to exposure they may receive. This is preventative. Feelings of anger won’t be stepping over that invisible line and exploding into violence. We can no longer only to be concerned about bad habits a person may develop over time, but are now dealing with school violence all over the country and in the workplace.

Respect must be taught as a core value to children at a very young age. A value system with respect integrated as part of it, will reject these ways of acting out they may see, while the opposite is true of those who have no basis of respect integrated in their value systems. Formal talks with children about respect, and why we have respect, need to take place throughout their growth process, and is a must. For parents to be thinking ‘they know’ is not enough. Talk, talk, and talk. Forming the attitudes of respect for authority and for one another, beginning at the Pre-School level and all the way up through the grades, can and will most definitely make a huge difference and outcome for the future society as a whole, let alone the life of the child. The time for teaching values is as soon as a child can understand direction and adult example. Values and choices kids make at 20 depend on the value system they learned before the age of 10. The time to impress values on children is when they are young. Some parents keep waiting. Teach children what is right, what is wrong, what is healthy for their lives, what is smart, and then teach them how to be strong enough to make the right choice. It is important to start NOW to train them to listen to and not to ignore or override their ‘gut’ feelings of what they know inside is the right thing to do. Teach values now.

Always keep in mind how much the media of television, movies, video games, and music matters. Much of the media is not concerned about the children’s values in the production of their products. They make what sells. Know what they are watching and hearing. Visuals, music, and words remain with us all. We store house all of it. It is in there. Protect yourself and your family from what you allow to enter your minds. Set your own family ratings, as the official movie ratings are unreliable. What is PG or PG-13 today, is not the PG or PG-13 of even 5 years ago. And believe how very much music lyrics do matter. What we hear over and over again we remember, store away, and incorporate. How many parents can recite almost word for word the lyrics of some of their favorite music of when they were young?

Media also has a very powerful positive side. Media can also be utilized to have a very positive effect, and is a very useful and powerful force for teaching. We can choose and enjoy positive choices for television viewing, movies, video, and music. We can use positive images and positive musical lyrics to form a base from which to build strong character values. What kids are seeing and listening to again, and again, and again becomes a part of them, and can be helpful to their growth process. You have heard, “You are what you eat.” We aren’t only what we eat, but what we hear and what we see!

My company, Kid Character Builders has brought together exceptional award winning collections of Character Education Resources, representing several companies whose goals are to educate the whole child. These Resources were created for Parents, Schools, Daycare, and any child-centered organization or program concerned with the topics of character education and child safety. The positive power of Film, Video, Music, Song Lyrics, and the Reinforcement of Activity Resource Books are used. Images and Music do shape what we think, talk and feel, and are useful as powerful tools for teaching the values of character education, and safety. Music is especially important as a learning tool, and has been shown to help with the actual retention of what is being learned, engaging a special part of the brain. With these winning collections, children learn positive character traits and values, with sing-a-long song lyrics set to engaging, fun music.

Educators know that children learn and remember best using a combination of their senses, through what they SEE, HEAR and DO. These programs have been a successfully used across the country, using these principles. The children look to us for answers and guidance. Start early. Kid Character Builders can help.