As we mentioned earlier, values are caught by your kids as much as they are taught. This basically means being truthful with them and with others. It means being kind to them and to others. Obviously, this is not always possible because no one is perfect. Our failures as a parent can be a wonderful “teachable moment” for teaching a value to a child. First, it is healthy to say “I’m sorry” to a child if we have not set a good example in some area. Kids need a positive model of how to deal with mistakes that they will certainly make as they grow up and are involved in relationships. They also need to know that they can admit mistakes and that you as a parent still love them.
If we are alert, life is full of “teachable moments.” “Teachable moments” are far more effective than a lecture. “Teachable moments” can come in reading a book to your child, watching a video, seeing an incident in a store, listening to a song on the radio, discussion at the dinner table, etc. Kids attention span is short so it is good to keep the “moment” short unless the child is really positively engaged.
Sometimes head on discussion can be difficult and not very productive. An alternative is discovering the lesson to be learned together. This is where books and videos can be very useful. For example, is the Quigley’s Village episode on Truth and Trust, Danny buys something with money that was supposed to be for something else. He bought a “Blobit,” a toy that grew when you put it in water. He put his name on it so everyone would know it was his. He couldn’t resist seeing what the toy would be like so he put it in a little water and it started to grow. When confronted about why he hadn’t bought what he was asked to buy he told lie #1. Then as the toy grew he had to tell more lies as he tried to hide it. Finally in frustration, he buried the toy, but when it rained, the toy grew so big everyone could see the toy and his name, Danny, in big bold letters. If your child tells a lie, you can go back to the “Blobit” story and ask them what happened with Danny and the “Blobit.” As you talk about the story, you can weave in the importance of telling the truth.
Often the little things we do say a lot. Thanking the cashier at the grocery store for their help, helping someone cross the street, etc. The “little” things in life are often noticed by your kids.
Family projects are also a great way to communicate values and they can be a lot of fun as well. Several families have made trips together as a family to build a house for a less fortunate family in Mexico. Think of all the values that could be learned out of multiple trips like that without saying anything.
If your family makes contributions, involve your children in the discussion. Listen to their ideas and share yours.
The flip side of values being caught is the temptation to have your kids relay a message that isn’t really true, like, having them answer the phone and tell someone that you aren’t home when you are. These messages are “caught” as well as the ones we want our kids to catch.