Teaching values to infants
(Part 2 of 4)
Studies show that basic values are set during your child's early years and these basic values are slow to change. That is why early childhood is the most teachable moment you will have for transmitting your values to your child.
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Your young child relies on you to help him make good decisions. He doesn't see the world the same way that you do. He is naturally self-centered and slow to see a situation from another's point of view. For example, a 4-year-old may not realize that the cashier is upset when he walks out of the store without paying for a candy bar.
He can make simple decisions, recognize right and wrong and acknowledge the rights of other people, but he needs your consistent guidance and good example.
Your child will pick up beliefs, attitudes and values, and this is an important pan of growing up. This learning will occur as he watches and begins to copy how people act around each other. It is important that you know what you expect of your child and that you communicate this very clearly to him.
The best way you can teach values and beliefs to a young child is to be a good example. Your child will imitate you and copy the examples set by other family members. He learns honesty, respect and responsibility from the way you treat him and other people. As his social circle expands, he picks up values from others.
You must watch your child to make sure he acts appropriately. Young children learn through repetition, so you need to tell your child the family values over and over again. You can help your child learn values by talking about them and by helping him recognize how he feels about things and situations.
All of this takes a lot of work. You must spend time with your child, show interest in him, listen, watch, explain, nurture, remind, encourage and be Firm. Over time, all this hard work pays off.
Here are some other ways to teach values to the young child:
- Use games to explain everyday situations and routines. For example, make a game of obeying the street lights or taking turns.
- Give clear instructions. Your child should know exactly what you expect of him.
- Show positive examples of moral behavior. For example, take turns yourself and say "Thank you," "Please," and May I? "
- Use storytelling with real-life dilemmas. Stories from books, the neighborhood, your childhood and the family can be used to teach about situations like taking candy, lying about a friend, and being tom between going to visit Grandpa and going to a birthday party.
- Discuss your moral decisions, values and beliefs with your child. Explain reasons for your beliefs with your child.
- Include children in family decision-making. This allows children to see values in action.
- Select appropriate TV programs for your child. As you look at programs with him, talk about attributes and behaviors of characters that you admire or of which you disapprove.
- Establish family rituals and traditions. Share your religious or spiritual beliefs with your child.
- Set a clear example of right or wrong. Practice what you preach.
Source: Teaching Values to Your Child brochure, prepared by Cynthia E. Johnson, Extension Human Development Service, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service