When you think deeply about parenting, it comes down to passing values of right and wrong, as the parents see them, onto the kids. When kids come into the world, they cannot tell right from wrong and their parents become an important agent in their acquisition of values to guide them through life.
We believe that when we transfer our values – the things that are important to us – to our kids, this will help them be happy, successful, healthy people. Through words and actions, by being an example or focusing on particular aspects of living, all parents say to their kids, “This is important to me”.
When we examine values in my parenting workshops, it is amazing to discover that parents put most of their energy on values that are not the highest on their list. In fact, most parents waste their energy on things they rate fairly low. They argue and fight over schoolwork and cleaning the house, while neglecting other, far more important things.
The greatest revelation for most parents is that if they want to transfer their values to their kids, they need to identify and prioritize them first. To discover your top values, ask yourself
If I could give my kids only 10 things before I die, what would those be?
It is amazing how wonderful the thought of dying is when trying to recognize your priorities (read In the Outback with Jasmine Banks).
Here is a list of values I find important and, let me tell you, it is hard to choose just 10 of them:
Parenting with your values in mind
If you want to instill your values in your kids’ character and behavior, here are some tips to make it easy for you to have the values in mind in your every day parenting.
- Once you have the most important values for you written in order of importance, ask yourself, “Do I demonstrate in my behavior that my top values are important to me?” Being a role model of behavior is the best way to instill values. “Walk the talk” is the most powerful way, because kids are small mirrors and they copy the important people in their life. By the way, if you think that what you do becomes more important when you have teens, think again! Kids absorb your every move when they are young and do not need to “unlearn” anything in order to develop good habits.
- When you communicate with your kids, do they know your highest values? Ask yourself, “If someone asked my kids about the things that are most important to me, would they know?” Check with your kids and make sure they know what is important for you.
- Set standards for yourself and your kids that will match your highest values. Be clear about your standards. When they are not kept, remind everyone about the rules by saying things like, “We do not talk badly about people behind their back”.
- Explain the meaning of your values to your kids. It is unreasonable to expect them to know what they mean without teaching them the meaning. They do not need formal lessons, but when you talk to them, say, “It is very honest to…” or “It was very friendly to share your lunch with your friend” to associate the action/behavior with the value.
- Spend your time with people, families and colleagues who share the same values as you. It is very hard to hide your resentment towards people who do things you do not value. It is also very hard to explain to your kids why you choose those people as friends when this contradicts your highest values.
- Do your best to be consistent, but if you cannot, which happens sometimes, tell your kids what made you temporarily sacrifice your value. For example, say you value family time, but you have to go to drinks with the people at work, you can tell your kids that making a living enables your family to survive, even if sometimes it requires being uncomfortable.
- When you want to encourage your kids to choose to live by your values, give them 2 “right” options to choose from. This way, they have a choice, but whatever they do is good. For example, ask, “Do you want to help me cook dinner before or after you finish your homework” gets two birds with one stone.
- When you find a song, a movie, a book or even someone else’s personal experience that can highlight your values, tell your kids about it, send them the song or watch the movie with them. The aim is to highlight the things that are important to you and any excuse will do.
- While we are talking about movies, make sure your kids do not watch movies that contradict your values. For example, if caring, sharing and love are high values for you, make sure they do not watch movies or play computer games with killing and blood.
- Be approachable for your kids and share with them any knowledge you have that they want. Answer their questions honestly and they will grow up to be honest and to trust you.
- When making a family budget, make sure to allocate money for the things you value. For example, if your kids’ talents and learning are important, do all you can to let them pursue a hobby, rather than spending your money on another TV set. The way you spend your money tells your kids a lot about your priorities.
- Search this blog for the things that are important to you and you are likely to find tips and ideas on getting them across to your kids. There are plenty of posts about motivating your kids and helping them to be healthy, creative and happy.
Good luck. Actually, luck has nothing to do with it. Raising kids “your way” is a matter of choice, focus and persistence.