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Building Value and Teaching Ethics to Teens

Value Building Exercises and Ethics Activities for Students

Helping teens understand the importance of ethics in their lives is vital to their personal growth. Teaching values to students can help them establish a moral compass that will guide them through life. Each activity listed below is designed to assist in the process of developing ethics and values in young adults. These ethics lessons for students and value building activities are part of our collection of 52 Leadership Ideas that promote moral principles, among other critical character traits. Click the link below today to download the PDF version of these activities.

Lost and Found

Go to the shopping mall with your young person. As you window shop, secretly drop a $10 dollar bill on the floor, where they will see it. Make sure they do not know you are the source of the money. When either of you spot it, don’t offer any suggestions to them on what to do. Allow them to reveal their heart. Will they keep it? Will they find a way to return it to the owner? Is it even possible to find the owner? Wouldn’t everybody claim that it was their money? Within a few minutes, you and your young person will be ready to discuss what to do with your find.

Once he or she draws a conclusion, talk about how it reflects the personal values they’ve embraced. What kind of values have you both chosen to live by?


The Hiding Place

I got this idea from a friend who’s had great success with it. It will take a little preparation. Choose a night to talk about the people during World War Two who refused to cooperate with Nazi Germany, as they murdered millions of Jewish citizens in several countries. Talk about how many of them took their Jewish neighbors in and hid them in secret rooms or crawl spaces in their homes. Their efforts saved countless lives, even though it cost some of them their life, when the Nazis discovered these hiding places.

Next, simulate the experience in your own home. Pick a secret room in your basement, your attic or a crawl space under your home. If you can, play a tape or CD with the sound effects of bombs and gunfire, or perhaps a thunderstorm. Grab some flashlights and run to the hiding place you’ve selected. Tell your young people you have thirty seconds to get there, or you will be captured. You may even want to surprise your young people (if they are old enough to experience it), by having a neighbor come in and look for you, as if they were trying to capture you. Do this for as long as everyone seems to be engaged in the exercise.

Afterward, talk about the experience. How did you feel? Ask your young people: Is there anything you believe in so strongly that you would risk your life for it?

TV Lies

This one is fun. Watch TV some evening, or see a movie in which you know one of the characters has questionable values. Explain to your young person they are to watch the commercials or the show for the purpose of discussion. Either during or after the program, discuss how often you saw lies in the commercials, the program or the movie. How do commercials over-promise what they can deliver? Did you hear any outright lies? How did the characters in the movie or program display unhealthy values? Were they deceitful? If so, why were they?

Now discuss this. How do they reflect real life? How can you live out a positive culture in your home or school?


Memory Lane

Take out some old photos of you when you were growing up, and look them over with your young person. You might even want to get some hot chocolate and sit down with a photo album for an entire evening. Talk about some fun memories you had growing up. Talk about what was happening when the pictures were taken, years ago. Try to remember the pivotal moments when your life was shaped as a young person.

Next, begin to talk about the values your parents passed on to you. Discuss the ones you wish they would have given you, if you feel you didn’t receive a strong foundation of values. Whenever possible, talk about what your parents did right, as they raised you.

Next, choose six core values that you and your young person believe would be good ones to embrace today. You may choose words as simple as honesty, service, or generosity. Practice them.

Stand For a Cause

Sit down with your young person and choose an organization that stands for a cause, and work for it. The cause could be feeding the homeless, it could be building homes with Habitat for Humanity, or it could be cleaning up the roadsides in your community. Be sure and choose one you believe in.

Pick a Saturday and go help them. Take a stand with them. Do something that communicates you believe in putting feet to your values. Talk over what it really means to believe in something.