Most people would agree that teaching values to children is one of the most important things that parents can do. In fact, without values, it is difficult to teach any other principles. There are just as many ways to approach teaching values as there are differences in the children that are to be taught. Therefore, many parents feel a great deal of anxiety or inadequacy when it comes to teaching their children values.
There is no one way to teach your children values. Therefore creating a how-to guide to do so is virtually impossible. However, there are some suggestions that can give parents some direction and ideas as they decide on a personal approach to teaching their own mix of values to their children.
Tips for how to teach your children values
Lead by consistent example
Children learn more from what they observe than from what they are told. Ideally you should always practice what you preach. If you teach your children the importance of certain values and then proceed to act against those teachings, not only are you sending mixed signals to your children, but you are showing your children that it doesn’t really matter what they do because you don’t seem to care about what you are doing. Being consistent about living the values that you teach your children will do more to help them to develop an appreciation for those values than will any other teaching tactic you use.
How can you tell the difference between right and wrong?
Concepts of right and wrong are more complicated than you may initially think. Sure there are black and white issues such as; it is wrong to steal or it is right to look both ways before crossing the street. But there are also more complicated issues such as it is right to share, but not with strangers and not with things like half eaten lollipops. You see how right and wrong can easily become a complicated issue? As you teach your children values, remember that you may have to remind them of different situations that may come up and how they should handle different situations differently. Also keep in mind that a child’s understanding of right and wrong will change as the child ages. A toddler’s understanding of values is much less sophisticated than the understanding that a teen should have. Adapt your lessons to the age of your growing child.
Avoid the “Because I said so Response”
Children need to be able to apply the principles that you teach them about values to a number of different situations. No two circumstances are alike, and if your child does not understand the principle of the value, they will not be able to see how it is applicable to a different kind of situation. Teaching values is going to take some effort from parents. If you are not willing to give explanations when they are needed, your children will not learn what it is you are trying to explain to them, and they will see less value to your leadership.
Encourage your children to ask questions
Many times children are confused about or have a hard time understanding what we as adults may see as perfectly clear and unmistakable. Often times out of frustration we dismiss a child’s lack of understanding for an unwillingness to listen or perhaps as an act of stubbornness. Remember that children are not born with adult intellect. Their little minds are absorbing all that they can as fast as they can, but just as it took you a lifetime to become the person of intellect that you are now, it will take your children some time to really internalize the lessons and values that you are teaching them. Be patient with your children and encourage them to ask questions if they do not understand what you are trying to teach them. By better understanding your children, you will have gained valuable tools that you can then use to better teach them, and have them understand what you are saying in the future.