In most families, values are never discussed directly. Most parents want their children to learn right from wrong, but values won’t develop on their own. It needs to be taught. When we catch kids being disrespectful and selfish, it’s an opportunity to help them make a better choice. Saying “that’s bad” or “don’t do that” won’t leave a lasting impression. Teaching values starts with considering what our values are and finding ways in daily life to live it out and discuss them with your children.
What are Values?
Values are essential in every person’s life, and parents need to instill good values in their children. If parents are not active in this responsibility, then the void will be filled with negative influences and forces in our culture that does not support healthy ethics and morals for families. The more aware and established parents are of their own values, the clearer they will express, communicate, and pass it on to their children.
A value is an amount of worth ascribed to something – the degree to which a thing is prized or has merit. These also pertain to the beliefs each person considers are important for himself.
Values are also vital for parenting since it influences all attitudes and behaviors that affect our decisions and relationships. To possess a certain value, your behavior must reflect it, not just think you should follow it or verbally accept it.
How to Teach and Help Children Understand Your Values
Children who are cherished and emotionally attended to are more likely to respond compassionately to other people, even from an early age. If you prioritize your relationship with your child and connect to them on a deeper level, you can have easier teaching values. Children who have been raised empathically are also more likely to treat others kindly.
There are a lot of values that you need to teach your children so they can grow up as well-rounded individuals, such as empathy, decency, humility, kindness, self-control, fairness, responsibility, honesty, honor, leadership, courage, dependability, love, gratitude, helpfulness, respect, generosity, and so much more. If you need a list of family values, you can check this out
These are some helpful ways you can help your children understand and adapt values:
1. Make the values relevant to him or her
Values can seem theoretical until kids start talking about their own lives, which are still full of values-laden decisions, no matter how young they are.
Here are some instances when you can teach values that makes it relevant to them:
- How much help does your 7-year-old accept from you on his school project?
- Is your 10-year-old allowed to break a playtime date with her friend to accept another, much more exciting invitation?
- Should your 12-year-old tell the teacher that some of her classmates are cheating on the test?
- Should your 16-year-old leave his football team halfway through the season when he’s recruited to join a more professional team when he’s the best player of their team?
Handling these decisions can develop values in your child. Don’t miss these opportunities to help your child grow by helping him or her make conscious decisions.
2. Be a good role model
The best way kids can learn values and behaviors is to model it yourself. Children often name their parents as their role models as they live their values in the world. It isn’t about what you say or tells what they have to do – but it’s about what you do and what they see in you.
If you tell your kids that soccer is all about having fun, teamwork, and developing skills, but your first question is “who won the game,” they will learn that winning is more important to you than anything else. If you’re teaching your kids to be honest, but you lie about their age to get a cheaper ticket in the amusement park, it will not only put you in an uncomfortable position – they will also learn that it’s okay to lie in some circumstances.
3. Articulate family values
If you haven’t done it yet, it’s time to define your family values. Family values affect healthy child development in different ways. The values elicit habits of behaving and thinking that honors human strengths and weaknesses.
Values innately exist in you, but when you acknowledge what values dictate your decisions, the binding becomes even stronger. A great way to do this is to list values and pick your top choices. During family time or family meals, discuss these values, and have deep conversations about why you value what you do. Teach your children the behaviors that flow from these principles, and use them to ignite meaningful conversations.
It’s getting harder and harder to talk as a family today with the rise of technology, as children and teenagers would rather play or use their gadgets instead of talking to their parents. However, it’s an important thing to do as a family. Having both formal and non-formal discussions about family values with your children will help each other up. Simply saying, “We are a team – there is no tearing each other down in this family” is a clear message for children not to put down their siblings or talk rudely against them behind their backs. Discussing and opening up these things gives your children a base as they start to develop what is important to them.
4. Avoid too much lecturing
While it’s great to talk to your kids about values, resist too much lecturing to the point that your kids would dread talking to you because you make every moment a “teachable moment.” Teachable moments only work when children are ready to learn, but most people experience lectures as alienating. Instead, try to ask questions and find out more about your child’s decisions and what he is thinking behind those things. Share your views and opinions sparingly – your child may not want to get bombarded with unsolicited opinions. Your child will probably learn more from the process of speaking out his dilemmas and noticing the moral implications of his choices than he would have from a lecture. The bonus for this is he’ll feel more connected to you because you listened.
5. Reinforce and reward the expression of values
When your children feel good about doing what’s right, they learn to value the quality of their lives beyond grades at school and their extra-curricular activities. Parents who let children know that courage, integrity, respect, and kindness are more valued than quantifiable wealth, success, or intelligence. When your children demonstrate a value that is important to you, recognize your child for it. Tell them what you admire about their behavior. For instance, you can tell your child:
- “Thank you for being honest with me and for admitting your fault.”
- “How generous of you to let your cousin use your favorite toy! Very good!”
- “Thank you for helping your little brother with his homework.”
- “I noticed how you comforted your classmate, who was crying. That’s so sweet of you.”
These verbal affirmations from a parent mean a lot to a child, and it’s a reward in itself. Be careful not to overdo this, though, as they may not appreciate it anymore.
6. Let the child experience consequences
Allow your children to experience the family’s values. When choosing to do the activities together, think about what values those emulate. There is no need to constantly talk about values, but instead, they can live them out through the activities you do. For instance, when your husband and son spend hours working on their dirt bikes, the values of hard work and enjoying life are being connected to the experience.
And sometimes, correcting your child through a lot of lecturing may not be effective, especially if your child has been hardheaded. When children understand, explore, and accept the consequences of their failures, critical learning occurs. For example, in teenagers, the consequences of not being honest and responsible can have serious consequences. Often, the consequences cannot be fully accepted or understood.
This is why the importance of teaching values at home from a young age is better than trying to instill it once they grow older. When you teach them young, it becomes part of a child’s character, and they can learn when the consequences are still small.
7. Encourage your child’s initiative to express values
When your child decides to donate her old clothes and toys to a classmate whose house has burned down, or if your child decides to start a clean-up club with her grade school friends, support it. Help her organize it in a way that’s manageable. Your help, support, and involvement will give your child the message that she is doing the right thing. The world is full of projects that young people have launched to make the world a better place, so celebrate and support small initiatives.
8. Instill self-efficacy
Children who know how to stand up for principles they believe in have high degrees of self-efficacy or the belief in the ability of self to reach goals and influence the future. Self-efficacy can be instilled in children when they are guided by their own internal compasses. The best way to do this is to model your own self-efficacy and sticking to your principles. Appreciate your children for who they are, and not just for what they achieve or can achieve. When young ones learn to believe in themselves, disrespect, dishonesty, pretense, and trying hard to please others will no longer make sense to them. Living with principles and integrity will become their way of life.
9. Volunteer together
Whether it’s serving at the church or running for school board, your kids need to see that you are committed to the welfare of others, not just your family. Help them appreciate the blessings they already have and how they can extend help to others. If you do not have community involvement, try to volunteer for community service projects as a family, like in a local soup kitchen, or coat drives, or nursing homes. They will need extra push and leadership from you at the beginning, but your children may end up wanting to do it again.