Young children can learn to respect authority from simple games like "Follow the Leader."

Games to Teach Respecting Authority

by Michelle McFarland-McDaniels

Teaching young children to respect authority is a crucial first step to instilling discipline in them. Yet, toddlers and preschoolers can be extremely resistant to attempts to compel them to comply with adult demands. Fortunately, parents can easily help their youngsters learn to respect authority by getting them to do something that comes naturally to them -- playing. Games that require them to obey rules, follow directions or do what a leader tells them to do are helpful tools for helping young children learn to understand the concept of authority and learn to respect it. Some of the most popular classic active games fit the bill nicely.

1. Mother, May I

"Mother, May I" is excellent for teaching children to respect authority because it requires them to ask for permission to perform an action and they are not able to engage in the action unless the leader, or "mother," grants them permission to do so. The other players, the "children," must ask the question "Mother, may I?" before taking steps of some kind -- giant steps, baby steps, etc. If Mother says, "Yes, you may," they can take the step. If she says, "No, you may not," they cannot. This game is very effective for teaching children to respect authority because it emphasizes that you have to defer to the person who plays the role of mother, even if Mother is a child and the children are adults.

2. Simons Says

"Simon Says" is great for teaching children to respect authority because it requires them to take heed of the precise instructions of an authority figure -- Simon -- and strictly adhere to the rules for following those instructions. To play "Simon Says," all of the players must perform each action Simon specifies, but only after the person in the role of Simon prefaces the command to perform the action with the words "Simon says..." The game teaches children to respect authority by showing them the importance of doing what the authority figure wants them to do in the exact way that individual wants them to do it.

3. Follow The Leader

"Follow The Leader" helps kids learn to respect authority by teaching them the importance of going along with the person in charge. When playing the game, all of the players have to form a line behind the leader, which emphasizes the leader's role as an authority figure, and emulate what the leader does.

4. Red Light, Green Light

Kids learn to respond to symbols of authority when playing "Red Light, Green Light." The leader in the game plays the role of a traffic light who yells "Red light!" to get the other players to stop and "Green light!" to get them to move. By having the person who plays the traffic light turn her back to the other players, the game reinforces the notion that rules set by authority figures are to be respected even when they aren't watching over you.

5. School

Playing "school" teaches children to respect the authority of a familiar figure in their lives: a school teacher. As is the case in real life, one player assumes the role of teacher while the other players are students. The game teaches children to respect the teacher because she is in charge of the students.

About the Author

I am a freelance writer with nearly 25 years of experience. I have written for print, electronic and online media. My work has appeared on a number of Web sites, including MSNBC.com and BET.com. I have also worked as a newspaper researcher, editorial assistant, copyeditor and editorial consultant. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology, a master’s degree in literature and a master’s degree in education. In addition to my writing career, I am also an elementary school teacher. I am married and I am the mother of two little girls, both of whom have been diagnosed with autism.{{}}

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