You need to know that they know.
Every family has their own set of values — those things we believe in most and hold the strongest convictions about.
Whatever those values are, we teach them to our children. Whether we realize it or not, they come through in the way we speak, the stories we tell, and the way we treat others.
No matter what lessons we deliberately intend to teach, our children learn exactly what it is we value as they watch our attitudes, reactions, and interactions.
This means it is vitally important that we as parents give conscious thought to understanding our own set of values. In order to do so, you must first determine what those cherished values are, and then develop a plan to pass them on.
To help you get started, here are 10 examples of family values.
1. Having a strong work ethic.
There is a great deal of discussion these days regarding the work ethic of Millennials — as there has been such a discussion about each generation in the last several decades. Some families have a family history of workaholics whose children feel abandoned. Some families believe drive and ambition are crucial.
What sort of work ethic do you wish to instill in your children?
2. Protecting and caring for each other.
How important is family to you? Do you want to pass on the value that we do our best to protect and take care of other family members? Do you feel that family is created through more than DNA?
3. Respect for each other and for all human beings.
In the U.S., we place high value on individual rights. What do you want your children to know and value regarding their outlook on the rights of people as individuals, as nationalities, as races, and as genders?
Do you have a strong perspective regarding lying and truth-telling you want your children to embrace? Are there occasions on which you believe it may be okay, or perhaps even better, to lie than to tell the truth? Or do you believe the truth is most important at all times and in all situations?
Is it important to you that individuals take responsibility for their actions, and that they follow through on tasks they say they will do?
Some families have traditions that have been a main-stay of family life for generations. These may be part of a cultural heritage, a religious practice, or a preference for certain holidays. The traditions you believe have added meaning to your life are important to share with your children.
Do you consider responding to the needs of others a priority? Is it important to you to be of help to family and friends in times of crisis? What about being of help to strangers?
8. Intellectual curiosity.
There is much to learn in life, and the most productive, well-adjusted people never stop learning. Helping your children develop their natural curiosity about the world and people around them will serve them well throughout life.
We are all hurt, misled and even betrayed by others from time to time throughout our lives. It is important to teach our children the art of forgiveness, as well as how to protect themselves, set boundaries, and recognize signs of abuse from people who habitually inflict pain on and take advantage of others.
Learning to communicate effectively is a skill that pays great dividends throughout life. Without this skill, we have difficulty standing up for ourselves and making our needs known, which can lead to unnecessary hurt, disappointment, and resentment in our personal and professional relationships. Developing the ability to communicate effectively builds confidence, opens doors, enhances problem solving, and increases success in life.
You can adopt the list above as your own, or use each as a starting point for discussions with your spouse (and perhaps your kids as well).
Once you’ve determined the values YOU want to instill in your children, the next step is to create a strategy for doing so.
One of my grandsons was visiting recently.
His father (my son) had spoken to him a few times about “life lessons,” and my grandson started a game on which each of us would state a life lesson, and then we would all discuss it to see if we agreed it was a truly an important life lesson, or just something silly we’d thought up. As we took turns, we each came up with both silly and serious ideas.
A couple of times along the way my grandson said, “Dad, we need to add that one to my big list of life lessons.”
We were following the admonition of Deuteronomy 11:19 and teaching values as we live our lives.
You can do the same once you have a clear vision of what YOU want to pass on.
Dr. David McFadden is a couple’s counselor at Village Counseling Center. Receive your free copyof the Better Life Magazine filled with articles with topics from taking good care of yourself, resolving conflicts in your relationship and discovering how to have success in your life.