“To educate a person in mind and not and not morals is to educate a menace to society.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
There are a myriad of skills that our children are expected to learn and master in order to excel in the everchanging world and social terrain. In trying to give them the skills required to take the world on, we may tend to overlook the foundational skills that are just as important, if not more. It is important that parents don’t miss out on teaching their children valuable and important life lessons. While some psychologists believe that it is impossible to teach values to your child. And this is true to an extent, in the sense that telling your child to be more honest, hardworking, diligent, compassionate, and empathetic, etc. is not very effective.
In recent years, schools have tried to accommodate and incorporate moral and social values development into their curriculum. Schools have a difficult time teaching children values for two glaring reasons; first being the problem of time. Schools have their plates full with what they are trying to teach kids; with math, science, and a variety of subjects and topics to cover. The second problem being that of timing. By the time school starts, it is already too late for schools to intervene in an attempt to impart and teach social and moral values to children. The foundation of values has already been laid out.
In addition to the two prior stated problems which are rather obvious, there is a third problem that is just as detrimental, but far more subtle. This is the problem that arises from the values being taught at home and the values being taught at school. This causes the child to be at odds, being pulled in both directions with no middle ground ever being reached.
The truth of the matter is that children begin to pick up values from their parents and the adults around them from the time they are toddlers. So, the question is not whether we are teaching them values, but what we are teaching them.
How do kids learn values then? The answer is rather simple. They learn values by observing what you do, and drawing conclusions about what they should do by watching and observing their parents and the important adults around them. While what parents teach them consciously is still important, the subconscious behavior and actions have a far deeper impact on children and how they emerge out of their childhood with a fairly clear view on value system embedded in them. If parents want to emphasize the importance of reading to children, they must ensure they are seen reading. Bond with the kids over books. Get books for babies from an early age.
Of course, parents are not the only source from which children learn values. Their friends and peers play a somewhat significant role in shaping your child’s value system. While peers and friends do play a part, research shows that the relationship that parents have with their children is the far more important and impactful.
Children are learning values in one way or another, whether that be – consciously or subconsciously. So how do we teach them those values consciously? Values are a topic that is not discussed or talked about in most households. It is assumed that children will develop a value system about what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad automatically, as if it were magic. But that’s not how it works. Teaching values consciously begins with looking inward and considering what our values are, and then finding a way to incorporate them into our daily lives and openly discussing it with our children.
Of course, it is more complicated than that and it is not a guarantee that children will follow the values we try to impart onto them. But following the values we are trying to impart to them will go a long way.
There are 10 core and primary moral competencies that all humans need. Those being – decency, fairness, empathy, self-sacrifice, responsibility, duty, loyalty, service, honesty, and honor. The list of values goes on and on, but this is a good place to start.
While introducing values to your child can seem like a daunting task, with a multitude of questions crossing your mind, here are some things to keep in mind while teaching your child about values:
1. Make the values relevant to your child’s world
Values may seem entirely theoretical until you start teaching them and when your kids start relating them to their real life. To make teaching effective, try relating the values you are attempting to teach them to the real world, their environment and their lives. Personalize the experience.
2. Be careful and aware of what you’re teaching them
It isn’t always about what you say, but rather what you do and how you act. Children learn far more from actions than words. So make sure that your actions match and line up with the values you are attempting to teach them.
3. Empathy and compassion are paramount
Empathy is the foundation of all values and children don’t “learn” empathy by being told to feel it; they have to be shown empathy in order to learn and understand it and by watching your reactions and response to others.
4. Explain and elaborate on your values and why you believe in them
Talk about your values, why they are important to you and why you believe in them. Follow this up by acting on them. This will help your children understand on a deeper level; a level that cannot be reached by words alone.
5. Discuss certain decisions and actions you take based on your value system
Discuss decisions you make and why you take certain actions rather than others based on the values you preach. Doing this will explain and add more context to some of your actions and decisions that your child may not be able to understand.
6. Emphasize on expressing your values and morals
When you see your child voicing a value that you deem important, acknowledge your child specifically for expressing those values you hold in high regard. This will only further encourage them to demonstrate the values you teach them.
7. Avoid lecturing your child
Every moment is not a “teachable moment.” Teachable moments are only effective when the child is willing and open to learning. So, more often than not lecturing can have the adverse of the intended effect on your child.
8. Encourage your child’s initiatives
When your child decides that they want to take part in a social initiative, such as cleaning the park, etc. you should encourage their actions. This will only further encourage them to take part in more such initiatives. There are so many projects from all around the world that children have taken part in that have had a positive impact on the world.
9. Encourage good sportsmanship to your children
Some children are more competitive than others from birth. They are naturally more competitive. But all children need to be taught about good sportsmanship, regardless of whether they win or lose.
10. Give your children opportunity to contribute to the community and charities
Providing your child with opportunities to contribute to the community will only aid in strengthening their values in the long run. This can be in a variety of forms, such as contributing to charities, clean up drives, etc.
Have a look at the Learning Values with Lucy & Wiz program from Learning Time. The stories from around the world are a great way to introduce these values in children in a fun and engaging way. Visit their website www.learningtime.co. Ask for a free demo.