9 Practical Ways to Teach Your Children Right Values
Respect, kindness, honesty, courage, perseverance, self-discipline, compassion, generosity, dependability. Most parents want to instill these kinds of values in their children. Doing so will protect them from potentially negative societal influences and lay the foundation for them to become good citizens. We’re not fulfilling our responsibilities as parents if we don’t try to instill solid morals in our children.
Teaching values takes time —a scarce commodity for many parents today. As a result, outside influences like peer pressure and the entertainment industry—through the Internet, television, movies, video games and music—are having a greater effect on children, shaping their perspectives more than ever before.
Let’s look at 10 practical suggestions that will help.
1. Model good values
One of the most important things you can do is set a good example for your children. They learn from seeing how you treat them, overhearing your interactions with others and observing what you do in different situations throughout the day. All the teaching in the world can be undone if your children watch you behave in ways that contradict what you’ve said.
They won’t think there’s anything wrong with lying if they hear you tell your boss you’re sick when you just don’t want to go to work, or if the phone rings and you tell your child to tell the person that you’re not home. If your actions are consistent with your words, then your message is going to be reinforced,” stresses Dr. Hill. Your children will know that what you tell them to do is vital if they see that you always “practice what you preach.”
2. Apologize to your children when you make mistakes
When you fall short with your children, not only do you need to acknowledge your mistake, you also need to tell them you’re sorry. This shows them that you value and respect their thoughts, perspectives and feelings. You’re also modeling an important way to show respect to others, and how to accept responsibility for your mistakes. When you apologize to your children, you instill a desire in them to do the same when they make mistakes.
3. Use everyday experiences as a springboard for conversation
Almost every day something happens that can provide you with an opportunity to teach your children about values. Use these incidents as conversation starters. It could be an incident you hear about in the news, something you or your children do or something you and they observe someone else do. These can make great on-the-spot lessons.
4. Share your personal experiences
Most of us can look back at our past and think of a lot of experiences that taught us some valuable lessons. Be willing to share some of those stories with your children, especially those that illustrate how you made choices that were consistent with good values.You might tell of a time when you stood up for your convictions rather than going along with the crowd, befriended a classmate at school whom everyone else was teasing, turned in a lost wallet rather than keeping the money for yourself, or worked really hard to achieve a particular goal. When you tell each story, describe why it was such a moral dilemma, how you came to make the decision you did, and how everything turned out.
5. Hold your children accountable for their mistakes
Your children may get themselves into trouble now and then. They might break the neighbor’s window playing cricket, disobey school rules and receive a punishment. You may be tempted to rush in and immediately try to “make things better” for them by going to the principal. If you rescue your children every time they make a mistake, they won’t take responsibility for their actions. They need to know that bad choices result in unpleasant consequences.
6. Don’t let your children take the easy way out of challenges
Along the same line, you should require your children to finish projects they start, even if their endeavors get tough, tiring or mundane. Suppose your son begs to sign up for football and then wants to quit after two weeks of practices. Perhaps your daughter signed up for French class but a week later she wants to drop it when she discovers how much the teacher expects students to work and achieve. For the most part, you should not let your children get out of these kinds of commitments (there are exceptions, of course).
7. Involve your children in encouraging and helping others
Encourage your children to help others whenever they can. It’s amazing how helpful they can be to others just through simple acts of kindness, such as making get-well cards for people who are sick, befriending shy or new kids at school, opening the grocery store door for a mom pushing a stroller or making some small talk with the elderly lady sitting by herself at the park.
8. Monitor television viewing and Internet use
When it comes to teaching your children values, there will be a lot less “unlearning” that needs to be done if you minimize their exposure to wrong ideas in the first place. Granted, you can’t shelter them from everything, but you can and should limit their exposure to television and the Internet.
Consider putting computers only in areas of your home where the whole family congregates together. “You don’t want your kids surfing the Web on a computer in their bedroom where you can’t see what they’re looking at.
9. Applaud good behavior
When you observe your children doing something good, let them know you are pleased with their actions. Thank your children when they clean their rooms without being asked or they do their homework without grumbling. Acknowledge what a good job they did when they finished a seemingly grueling school assignment. If you walk into the living room and notice your children playing nicely together, tell them how wonderful it makes you feel to see them getting along so well.
The bottom line is that you need to communicate with your children. Talk about what they did right, what they did wrong, how to make better moral decisions.