Teaching Dignity and Respect

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”


December is National Human Rights Month.  This is a time when we recognize and acknowledge that every individual has basic human rights, as outlined in the Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1948.  This is a good time to teach dignity and respect in your classroom. 

Talk with your students about what dignity means

“Dignity is something that every person has. Dignity is knowing that we matter, that everyone matters! Having dignity means that we treat all people with kindness and respect. We know that we all will do great things in our lives and will work hard to make the world abetter place.”

(Source: https://globaldignity.org/)

Discuss the 5 principles of dignity

“Every person:

  • has the right to be who and what they want to be and be the best versions of themselves.
  • deserves to be educated, healthy, and safe.
  • has their life, identity and beliefs respected by others.
  • should help others live good lives, strengthen the dignity of others, and make sure everyone lives in freedom and peace.
  • believes that dignity means taking action when people aren’t being treated with kindness and respect.”

(Source: https://globaldignity.org/)

Songs like “I Like Me” and “EverybodyHas Feelings” from Hap Palmer’s Ideas,Thoughts and Feelings recording help reinforce ideas about dignity, respect and empathy. The simple, clear lyrics introduce children to the concepts, which underpin dignity and respect, in an understandable, concrete way.

Share and learn

Ask your students to identify dignity (a sense of pride in oneself) in their own lives. Talk about a time when they showed respect to someone else or when they were kind to someone. Ask them if they’ve ever helped someone.  They can draw pictures about helping others and then share and talk about them with the class.

Our SELF! – Social and Emotional Learning Fun!  CD collection can extend this exercise into a great integrated SEL lesson. A variety of songs help children recognize and label their emotions and gain appreciation of their abilities. The songs also promote cooperation, empathy with peers and socially appropriate behavior.  Additionally, the songs and activities provide a seamless way to incorporate SEL into your literacy curriculum. 

More resources for teaching dignity and respect for kids can be found at The Global Dignity website.

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