“Do as I say, don’t do as I do.” How many times have you heard that? I dare say we have all heard someone in a position of power whether it is a parent, coach, teacher, mentor or other say this. As a parents, though, we should do our best to not say these words to our children.
Our children are watching us, listening to us, mimicking us in virtually every way. Even when they get to be in those awkward teenage years, they are still listening (sometimes with earphones in) to what we are saying and doing. Therefore, we must do three important things to help them develop values that will last with them well beyond the home they grow up in.
Write Them Down
It is impossible to instill values if you or your child do not know what values you have. It is important in the elementary and middle school aged child to at some point sit down and literally write down what values you have that are important. A good listing of 5-10 things that you consider a value. Then make sure you share that list with your children of this age. At that age they may not understand how to implement them, but as they grow older and mature you can then use them as teaching points during life events.
The role of parent is not one that can play out as a friend to your child. However, someone who can objectively listen to their child is one who can make rational decisions on various situations. You should be involved in your child’s life. Ask open-ended questions at the end of the school day when they arrive home. Don’t ask “How was school today?” which will solicit a “Just fine,” response or something similar. Ask questions like “What was funniest/worse/enjoyable/least enjoyable part of your day?” Then LISTEN to the response. If you listen, you will hear opportunities in which to share what your values are. In so doing your child will be given the opportunities to hear from someone with more experience, on how to handle various situations. Keep in mind you need to demonstrate and model the values you see that are important during these times.
Own Your Mistakes
No one is perfect and that includes you and me. We all make mistakes and we will do so in front of our children at times. We will even go against our own stated value system at times. What is important is to not do so in front of our children and then not address it. Making sure you articulate to your children that you messed up goes a long way in developing that intentional relationship with your child. It also shows that you are always seeking improvement even in your own life. It is that display of desire to improve that is important for our children to see and know about us. They will model you, if they see you admitting your mistakes and growing from them, then they are more likely to admit their own and grow from them. Otherwise you run the risk of your child getting into a rut and not being able to dig out of it.
In summary, to instill these values it is involves a three step approach:
- 1. Write them down so everyone knows what they are.
2. Listen for opportunities to utilize them in your child’s daily life.
3. Recognize and own your mistakes so you have something to demonstrate for your children.
These steps will most certainly put you in a much better position to help develop values for your child. If done in this method, they will be ones that will stay with them forever. Even after they leave the nest.