Teaching values to children
(Part 1 of 4)
Passing your values on to your child will be one of your most challenging tasks as a parent. Your child needs strong, clear images of what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and what is inappropriate.
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Values are learned first in the family. Mothers and fathers lay the foundation that will help their child develop an internal code by which to live.
Of course people outside the home influence your child, too. Grandparents, child care workers, people in church, teachers and other children are influences. Television, radio, magazines and advertisements also expose your child to values.
Although you cannot be the only influence and you don't know if your child is following your values when you are not with him, it is essential that you teach your child values.
What are values?
Values are what you believe in. Values are your feelings about what is important in life. Values are what you feel is right, desirable and proper. Values are the basis upon which you make decisions, set goals and make choices. Values are the ground rules by which you live.
Not everyone shares, believes in or practices exactly the same values. However, almost everyone agrees that it is wrong to steal, cheat or lie. Most everyone agrees that we should be kind to one another. Most parents want to raise decent, law-abiding, moral children.
Schulman and Mekler in their book Bringing Up a Moral Child, describe the steps in moral development as a guide to parents in teaching morality to their children:
- Internalizing parental standards of right and wrong action;
- Developing an empathy for other people's feelings; and
- Constructing personal standards of kindness and justice.
In other words, parents try to instill a set of values that the child will follow even when the parents aren't around. That's the aim of teaching values to your child.
The approach that you use to teach values to your child will vary, depending on your child's maturity and the moral issues and decisions that he faces.
Learning values begins in early childhood. Your child encounters issues of fairness, kindness, obedience and responsibility in everyday life. He also encounters situations that are far less positive. Talking about values helps children to recognize how they feel about things.
You will influence your child's values by the example you set in daily life, by establishing and enforcing rules, and by communicating approval or disapproval of your child's activities. Children need to be reared in a loving environment. They feel valued, a necessary condition to being able to value others, when they are loved. Honesty, courtesy, conviction, kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity and a host of other values are first experienced, or not experienced, at home. These affect how children make ethical choices. The impulse to do right or to do ill toward other people is learned at home.
Sometimes it is hard to know if your values are getting across, but you ought to continue to work to instill moral values in your children. After all, following the golden rule, practicing virtue and transmitting values are the essence of effective parenting. Teaching your beliefs and ideals is your responsibility and one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.
To continue, read:
- Children begin learning values at a very young age
- Teaching values to children ages 6-12
- Teaching values to teenagers
Source: Teaching Values to Your Child brochure, prepared by Cynthia E. Johnson, Extension Human Development Service, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service