Respect is the Character Development theme for the month of September in our School Board. Respect means thoughtfulness, consideration, honor, admiration, regard, esteem. All these words show what happens when there is respect. But with kids you need to give them more than words, you need to give them an experience of Respect for them to understand it.
The Roots of Respect:
Start a class about respect discussing the roots of the word:
“Re:” when “re” is in a word it means “again, back to the original place, with reference to” like in repeat, remind, resource. The “re” tells us to do something again.
“Spect” – means to look at. The words spectacle, spectator, or spectacles contain “spect.”
To respect is to look again, to go back and take another look. We take another look when we feel there is value, what we respect we hold in esteem. If we respect a teacher, we look to that teacher to teach us. If we respect a friend we want to go back to that friend.
Ask the kids, “What things do you respect?”
We respect ourselves, what we do (yoga), and each other by looking again. Lets look as we sit in easy pose. Are you warm, cold, comfortable or uncomfortable?
Now warm-up with the Sun Salutation (or choose some other warm-ups). Then come back to easy pose. Look again at yourself. How do you feel now? Warmer? More comfortable? Less comfortable? Tired? Energized?
Looking at yourself again is Self-Respect. Knowing yourself lets you respect and take care of you!
Next: Partner Yoga
What does it mean to respect your partner? Before you begin, look into your partners eyes and greet them. In partner yoga you look at yourself (self-respect) and also respect your partner.
Ask the kids: What could happen if you don’t respect your partner? (They could get hurt, you might stand on their foot without looking!)
Choose a few partner poses for the next part of the class (
see the book resources on the right for ideas). Look at your body to get it in the right position. Look again at your partner, are they okay? Then look again at your breath. Then look again at your muscles. Each time you look again, you will see that there are many layers to everything we do and understand that respect is about looking deeply, not just on the surface.
A Yoga Story About Looking Again
There is an old yoga story about a man walking through the forest at night. It was getting dark and he stepped on something on the path. When he looked down he saw a snake and froze, screaming for help. When the neighbors arrived with torches, they saw it wasn’t a snake at all, it was only a rope.
The first time we look at something we see one thing, but when we look again we see all kinds of other things. Just like the man in the story, what we think we see may be an illusion and not what is actually there.
Look Again: A Kids Yoga Game for Respect
I made up this game to try in class to help children understand why we need to take another look, to help understand what respect is:
One child stands at the front of the class with all the other children looking at them. They have 30 – 60 seconds to look at the child as everyone does the pose (tree, cobra, butterfly, even downward dog – any pose where the children can look at the front without hurting their neck). Try to remember everything you can about the child.
Then all the kids rest in child pose with eyes kept closed (including the child at the front – they have to remember too!). The teacher calls out questions and the kids call out their answers to see how much they can remember. What color is their shirt? pants? shoes? eyes? Were they wearing jewelery? What style is their hair? etc.
They come out of child pose and look again at the person at the front and see all the things they missed. Repeat the game or repeat with 2 or 3 children at the front for a real challenge. Take a few minutes to rest at the end of the class.
How did this game help you understand what respect is? How does looking again show respect?
Sometimes we look at a person and because of how they look (short or tall, underweight or overweight, old or young) we think we don’t need to look any further. We judge the person based on one look. How is this related to respect? Is it dis-respectful to do this? Why or why not? Has this ever happened to you?
These are some ways that yoga can give children an experience of respect.
Please add your comments and suggestions about teaching kids about respect. Can anyone recommend any good songs for a kids theme about respect?