Most parents will agree that they want their children to have good values, morals, and ethics. From this desire to a strategy to make it happen, is often where gaps occur.
A good beginning point is realizing how important values are. For a number of years I taught a class on how to start a small business. The very first assignment in the course was to write a personal values statement. Why? Because as the owner of a business you are called on to make many decisions daily and you have to train your staff to make many decisions daily. If you have a firm grasp of your values, decisions can usually be made quickly and with confidence. If a small business owner is unsure of his values, decision making will become a task that will likely overwhelm him in a short period of time.
Building close relationships likewise requires one to know your personal values to connect those of similar values.
It is true that values are caught by children as much as they are taught. By the same token, sometimes we as parents do not take advantage of the teachable moments we have with our children. Consciously teaching values is not an easy process and most of us have never had a class in it.
Research has shown that a large portion of a child’s values are set by the age of 8. When kids are younger they are interested in learning and are very open. They love to be read to. There are some wonderful books that incorporate values into the story lines. I remember the Value of Truth and Trust: The Story of Cochise. I just looked this books up in Amazon to make sure it was still in print and here were the first two reviews:
“When I was little, my Dad made me read these books and he used them for discipline as well. If I lied, I had to read “The Value of Truth and Trust”. If I thought the grass was greener on the other side, I had to read the one about Helen Keller. Here I am, 20 years later and I found myself searching for them online, because they’ve helped me tremendously. I consider myself to be a very honest and grateful person now and these books were the core.” – Amazon.com Customer 1
“As a young kid I would read these books for fun and enjoyed them. Like the previous reviewer, my father used these books for discipline as well – with a twist. If I lied I didn’t have to read the book (I would have enjoyed that) – I had to write it. Believe me, that corrected any behavioral issues quite quickly. It often took a couple of days to hand copy these books and was quite an effective punishment. I feel that I learned my lessons quite well and that these books strengthened my moral fiber. Now, tonight, twenty years later – my own son gets to write his own copy of Truth and Trust for the first time. Here’s to hoping that it only takes one time. – Amazon.com Customer 2
I’m not advocating the books as discipline, but I found it interesting how these adults remembered the lessons for their youth. The root of the word “discipline” is “to learn.”
Books are a great way to teach values to your kids. And kids like to have a good book read to them again and again.
The Value series above was a motivation for the children’s video series we did to teach values. The first one we did was “Truth and Trust.” We love books, but we also saw that many kids were more into other forms of media so we did videos and songs that were entertaining and also taught. Like a book, pre-school kids will watch the same video again and again and again. It is not unusual for a pre-school child to watch a favorite video more than 100 times. Each video was on one value with a storyline a preschooler could understand along with fun music and a Bible story creatively interwoven into the program.
A favorite story that I have is about a grandpa and grandma that bought three Quigley videos for their granddaughter who was coming for a visit Thanksgiving weekend with her parents. The grandma and grandpa had a friendly wager about whether their 3 year-old granddaughter would watch one video all the way through. The granddaughter came for the weekend and wound up watching all three videos through 7 times. One of the videos was on sharing. At the airport when the granddaughter was leaving with her parents, she saw another little girl waiting for a plane with no toys to play with. Without prompting, she went over and shared one of her toys with the girl she didn’t know. The grandpa was so impressed he sent one of his staff to my office the next week to explore selling Quigley’s Village videos.
During children’s first 8 years, they are very open to parental input, but that will often change. As children grow older, peers, television, computers, video games, and other media will become more influential. As a parent, you will still be a significant influence, but it is much more challenging to effectively communicate good values amidst the whirlwind of contemporary media messages.
Parents, please be proactive!
Particularly be proactive in the first 6-8 years of your child’s life. They are the most formative years and the years where you have the most opportunity to provide input.