Our two adolescent daughters learned and then put into practice a simple lesson on loyalty one week. They had planned a surprise farewell party in our home for one of their friends who was moving out of the area with her family. On the day of the party three of the girls who had accepted invitations called and, with very flimsy excuses, said they wouldn’t be able to come. Our girls, who had decorated and planned for the party for some time, were first disappointed, then a little angry. “They just had something better come up,” one daughter complained. “Now we won’t have enough people to play some of the games.” “It’s so inconsiderate,” said the other daughter. “In fact, it’s disloyal.”
Later that week they got invited to a party — one that they very much wanted to attend. But the party was on the night of the regular meeting and rehearsal of an organization they belonged to, which was preparing for a production. There was no question about where they would have rather gone — but there also was no question about the loyal and dependable thing to do.
So . . . loyalty and dependability means doing what is right even when it is hard (and even if it means missing a party – or going to a party you aren’t thrilled about!).
Children can learn what loyalty and dependability are through stories, games, role-playing, and discussion, but they can learn to have it only through your example and through your lavish praise of their example (or even of their attempts).
Highlight your own dependability. Make your children aware of your own example. Parents do things every day that illustrate their loyalty to their children and that exemplify dependability in the home setting. But so many of these things are so automatic that they are seldom noticed and seldom used as visible examples of this important moral value. Instead of saying, “I’ll pick you up after school,” say, “I’ll be there at three-thirty — you can count on it.” Instead of just going to a child’s soccer game or music recital, say, “I’ll be there no matter how busy I am because I want to be with you and support what you do!”
Tell children more often that you will always be there for them, that they can depend on you, that you’ll be behind them in hard times. Take credit for your dependability and loyalty, because it is the best way to instill the same qualities into your children.
Thank children and praise them for every evidence of their own dependability. Reinforce the value and show them how often it can be used. Thank your children when they are on time for dinner or when they support or help a smaller brother or sister. Praise them when they finish an assignment or task. Work hard this month at never taking for granted any act or evidence of dependability or loyalty.
Sample Method for Preschoolers: Set Small Children up for Dependability
When asking your child to do something, set him or her up to be dependable: “I know I can depend on you to empty the knives, forks and spoons from the dishwasher when I ask you to do it. I love when you do it quickly, happily and well. Will you please empty the silverware now?” Set them up to be dependable, then praise them up and down for their dependability.
Sample Method for Elementary Age: The Synonyms and Antonyms Game
This game will help late elementary school or early-adolescent children be clear in their understanding of both words. Simply ask, “What are some synonyms or close synonyms for dependability?” (Reliability, trustworthiness, consistency, predictability, etc.) “For loyalty?” (To stand up for, to be part of, to be true to.) “What are some antonyms or near antonyms for dependable?” (Can’t be counted on, unpredictable.) “For loyal?” (Uncommitted, traitor, spy, out for oneself.) Then discuss how dependability helps people and how its opposites hurt people.
Sample Method for Adolescent Age: Lists
These help children pinpoint who and what they want to be loyal to and what things they want to be dependable on. Work together with the children on forming a loyalty list (family members, school, church, friends, etc.) and a dependability list (family job, school assignments, music practice, etc.)
*** For lots more methods, great discussion questions, and wonderful audio stories for children that will help you teach your children about each month’s value, check out our Alexander’s Amazing Adventures program.
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