How to teach values to your kids? Some believe you can accomplish that very simply. If your kids are very young, use a time-out when they go against your values. If they know how to read, sit them down with a book of Aesop’s Fables and let them get their values by osmosis. If they hate reading, talk to them about your values. If all else fails, ask someone else to do the job.
So why don’t I recommend one of those as the way to teach values to your kids? I don’t do that because not one of them, by itself, gives the desired results.
To teach values to your kids, you must embark on a mountain-climbing expedition. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean you will take your kids (offspring or students) in tow, fly to the village of Lukla, Nepal, and climb Mount Everest. I do mean that you must prepare yourself to take a number of specific, upward steps to reach the goal.
The Goals of Teaching Values to Your Kids
Mountain climbers always set goals. The big goal when climbing Mt. Everest will be to reach the pinnacle by a certain date. They will set shorter goals, with dates, that will help them reach the big goal. Without goals, climbers will never succeed.
You must set goals to teach values to your kids. A goal is a specific desire with a due date. For example, you write a desire that your kids _ (will be characterized by strong moral values)___ and you want them to be that by _____(specific date)______.
Be sure you write down your desired results in clear sentences. When writing the main goal of “reaching the top of the mountain”, avoid the trap of saying, “I want them to stop complaining every time I ask them to do something.” Make this goal positive, and make it encompass all of life rather than one specific situation. “I want them to consistently manifest, toward me and everyone in their lives, strong qualities of character in everything they do, and I want that to be happening by the time they become adolescents.”
The Effort of Teaching Values to Your Kids
Once you have a clear “reaching-the-mountain-top goal” with a date, it’s time to begin the climb. Remember, we’re not sunbathing on a beach in Hawaii. We’re scaling Mt. Everest. Teaching values requires continual effort. Let’s break that work down into eight specific steps.
- Assessment – Get a clear understanding of the mountain. Look honestly at your own moral behavior. Do moral values consistently control your life? Give your kids the same inspection. Where do they stand regarding values? Write out your assessment and that of your kids.
- Choose Base Camp – What character trait / value do you want to teach your kids first? Respect? Assessment may show that they disrespect you and others. Courage? Many kids are afraid to stand up for the moral values they know to be good. Choose one specific trait.
- Picture Base Camp – You want to recognize it when you reach it. Grasp the meaning of your selected character trait. Commit to memory character trait definitions. Picture daily life at that base camp. What will life be like once you have reached it? What will change about how you act now when you exercise that value on a consistent, daily basis?
- Plan Sub-goal #1 – Write out a goal (desire with a due date) for reaching your base camp – your specific character trait. Write it the same way you wrote the main goal.
- Prepare to Climb – Acquire knowledge from purpose-written books on moral values. Read them together as though you were planning a family trekking expedition. Talk about them. Fiction that specifically teaches character traits provides good examples and good role models.
- Hire a Sherpa – A Sherpa is a guide who helps people climb Mt. Everest. Find a role model who consistently exercises your chosen value – someone who can help your kids climb without lecturing about the process. Encourage your kids to follow his or her behavior, and conform to it.
- Act Carefully – Even a Sherpa can’t get you up the mountain if you yourself don’t act carefully. You must make decisions at every step to avoid disaster. Your kids must make values decisions throughout every day. Talk to them about those decisions. Provide steady encouragement as they work to choose, for example, whether to respect siblings or disrespect them.
- Accept Consequences – Every mountain climber must accept the consequences of his or her own decisions. Some decisions can cause a delay in your efforts to attain a certain value. Some can cause serious setbacks. Some may make your kids want to quit. Teach them to accept every consequence and keep trekking toward the goal.
The Big Essential
When you teach values to your kids, the big essential is your own consistent exercise of those values. Don’t expect them to be honest if you aren’t honest with them. Don’t expect them to exercise respect, responsibility, and others of the 66 character traits unless you are exercising them to the best of your ability. Only then will you know how to teach values to your kids.