Values and Behavior Print

A Lesson Plan from Life Planning Education: A Youth Development Program (Chapter Two)

NOTE:  Life Planning Education (LPE) is currently being revised. The printed/for-sale version includes an older version of this lesson plan. Please make sure you have looked at the PDF of Life Planning Education before purchasing - that is the version that is available to buy.

Purpose: To examine the relationship between values and behavior.

Materials: Newsprint and markers or board and chalk; paper; pens/pencils

Time: 35-45 minutes

Planning Notes:

  • Before conducting this activity, come up with at least two examples that participants will recognize of people who have lived according to their values, sometimes at great personal cost. Examples from your own community work best, such as parents who work two or more jobs to feed, clothe, and educate their children and people who speak out to correct injustices. Otherwise you can give examples of: civil rights activists like Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King; people who left home and comforts to help others, such as Mother Theresa and the men and women of Doctors without Borders, etc.
  • Clip any recent news articles about community heroes and the influence of their personal values on the life they lead.
  • On the board on newsprint, prepare for Step 3 below by making three columns, entitled Person, Values and Behavior.
  1. Say that values are things that we feel strongly about. They can be things we are either for or against; but it’s often easier to think of what we are for rather than what we are against. Point out that this is because we feel positive energy when working on what we are for. We can disperse our energy and our values in hatred and dissension when we focus on what we are against. Even if a value is normally expressed as a negative (preventing cruelty to animals), we can be stronger and more focused by expressing it as a positive (promoting kindness and respect for all living things).
  2. Ask the group to name people they know or people in the media (politics, news, television, films, or books) who have felt very strongly about something and have acted because of their values. Allow several minutes for the participants to think of names. Give an example, if necessary, to get the list started.
  3. As the adolescents give examples, write down on newsprint or the board: a) the names; b) their values and principles or beliefs; and c) their specific behaviors. List these in three columns under Person, Values and Behavior.
  4. Now ask the group to think of examples of values that have influenced their own lives in some way. Give one example of a behavior that resulted from your values (such as, telling a friend that his joke was inappropriate because you value treating people with dignity and respect or donating money to help others because you believe all people are family to one another).
  5. Ask the teens to think of guiding principles that have influenced their behavior and that they learned from their family, culture, and spiritual leader(s). [Examples of principles might include, but are certainly not limited to: telling the truth; being honest; taking care of younger brothers and sisters; living in harmony with others; visiting the sick.] Ask how such principles have influenced participants’ behavior.
  6. Write the adolescents’ names and examples on the board in the same three columns you earlier used for community, national, and world leaders.
  7. Now, go over instructions for the rest of the activity:
    • I will read several statements, followed by a series of questions. Do not answer the questions out loud, just think about them and write notes to yourself.
    • Each statement reflects a value. Questions will be about behaviors that support or ignore the value.
    • When I have finished, the group will talk about the results.
  8. Read aloud the following statements and questions (or substitute statements and questions of your own):
    1. Your health is important to you.
      • Do you get regular exercise?
      • Do you eat a healthy diet?
      • Do you smoke?
      • Do you use alcohol and other drugs?
    2. Men and women should have equal opportunities.
      • Would you encourage a female friend to take an advanced physics class?
      • Would you encourage a male friend to take a class on clothing design?
    3. Racism is wrong.
      • Do you make friends without considering race?
      • Would you support a friend who was dating someone of a different race?
      • Do you refuse to use racist names and phrases?
      • Do you refuse to laugh at racist jokes and tell your friends they are wrong?
    4. Adolescents should not have sex unless they use contraception.
    • If you have not had sexual intercourse:
      • Have you thought about what contraceptives you would use if you decide to have sex?
      • Do you know where to buy contraceptives and how to use them?
      • Have you talked with your friends about the importance of using contraceptives when they have sex?
    • If you are having sexual intercourse
      • Have you talked with your partner about using latex condoms and other contraceptives
      • Have the two of you decided what contraceptives to use
      • Do you and your partner always use latex condoms to prevent HIV infection?
  9. Ask the group members to reflect on their answers to the questions for a few minutes and then write an ending to the following sentence:
    “Sometimes adolescents don’t behave according to their values because...”
  10. Summarize the relationship between values and behavior by covering any of these points that have not already been made:
    • People tell others about the values that are important to them.
    • People act according to what their values tell them to do or not to do.
    • People make decisions based on their values.
    • People stand up for their values.
    • People feel bad or guilty if they do not behave according to their values.
  11. Conclude the activity using the discussion points below.
Discussion Points:
  1. How does it feel to stand up for your values when friends disagree with your position?
  2. What happens when adolescents’ behavior is not in line with parents’ values? (Answers can include: parents and adolescents argue; adolescents may lie to their parents; adolescents and their parents may avoid talking about the subject.)
  3. What happens if your behavior is out of line with the religious or spiritual values you hold? (Answers can include: some people stop attending religious services and avoid spiritual leaders because they feel guilty, embarrassed or angry; some rethink their values; others rethink their behavior.)
  4. What influences people to behave in ways that are consistent with their values? Give an example. (Answers can include: it feels good to follow one’s values; parents and other adults reward behavior that reflects the values they teach; it’s easier to follow our values than to deal with the guilt and anguish of betraying those values.)
  5. What influences people to behave in ways that are inconsistent with their values? Give an example. (Answers might include: people may want to try acting a different way; friends may pressure adolescents to do things against their values; adolescents may worry about losing friends; there may be a chance to make a lot of money from betraying one’s values; there may be a chance someone angry or to ‘get under their skin’; it may be a way to rebel or get attention.)
  6. Will your values change or remain the same as you get older? Why do you think so?
  7. If your values and behavior are at odds, should you take another look at your values, your behavior, or both?

Life Planning Education, Advocates for Youth, Updated 2009.
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