In a consumer-driven society that broadcasts values you don’t approve of, how can you teach values to your kids? Here are ten ideas to help you:
1. Tell them your life stories and teach through your stories.
Kids love to hear stories about your childhood. Weave in some moral dilemmas, and you’ve got great opportunities to teach them values. It’s especially effective at bedtime, when there are fewer distractions. They’ll fall asleep with the story swirling around inside them.
2. Live your own life according to your values—walk the talk.
Kids learn by imitating, especially at a young age. They’re very adept at seeing the match between what you say and what you do. Don’t give them confusing signals; follow your own values every moment.
3. Expose them to your religion, faith, or spirituality
It seems especially important to let your kids know they’re not alone. Guiding your kids towards your faith or spiritual beliefs will strengthen their values, and provide parents with a framework for their life.
4. Pay attention to who else might be teaching values to your kids
Get to know your child’s teachers, coaches, friends, etc. Anyone who spends time with your children may be influencing them. Know their values and beliefs as well.
5. Ask your kids questions that will stimulate dialogue about values
Telling your kids what values they should have won’t be very effective, especially when your kids get older. Asking them “curious” questions will allow discussions that will eventually lead to values. “What did you think about that fight?” will be more effective than, “He shouldn’t have started that fight!”
6. Talk to them about values in a relaxed and easy way
Nothing will turn your kids off more than preaching values to them after they’ve screwed up! Talk to them when everyone’s relaxed, and do it in a light, conversational manner. Be aware of using the “parental tone,” which has your kids wanting to run for the door.
7. Limit their exposure to TV and video games
One of the ways to teach values to your kids is by showing them what you avoid. Advertisers in the US will be spending over 3 billion dollars to try and convince your kids that they’ll feel better if they have the right clothes, etc. If you really want to show them there are more valuable ways to spend your time, limit your own TV watching as well.
8. Involve your kids in helping others
Kids learn values when they experience them. Allow them to experience helping others by donating a portion of their money to the needy, or by getting involved in charity work. When your kids can see first-hand the results of their efforts, an important value will be established for a lifetime.
9. Have frequent conversations about values in your household
Don’t make the mistake of only talking about values when something goes wrong. Your kids need to hear your values reflected often in conversations. It’s another way for them to know that it’s important.
10. Have high expectations for your kids’ value systems
Your kids will tend to rise to the level of your expectations. Their value system will often reflect yours, as long as you expect them to make it an important part of their life. When your kids are making a decision, ask them to consider how their decision fits into their own value system.