Teaching Children Values
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When I think back on my own childhood, images of love, encouragement, and warm family memories flood my mind. I recall evenings on my dad’s lap listening to him read to me for hours. I have no doubt that those experiences instilled in me a lifelong love of books. Four decades later I can still hear my mom’s words, “Treat everyone with kindness, Michele,” in the same tone she used when I was young. The values that my parents modeled—perseverance, compassion, acceptance, and believing in myself—are the same ones that guide my life today. And they are the same values I try to model to my own children. You don’t need research to prove your influence: just one moment of catching your child imitating your behavior or repeating your words or emulating your values should confirm that you do make a difference.
Common sense tells us we can significantly influence the direction of children’s lives. And there’s a simple reason: the skills for living successfully are learned—not inherited; we can make an enormous difference because we can teach these skills to our children and to our students. Handling life’s ups and downs, getting along with others, setting a goal and not giving up until it is reached, knowing how to find solutions and resolve conflicts, communicating assertively, and doing it all with compassion and empathy are the skills that build solid characters, strong minds, and caring hearts, and they are all skills that can be taught. Although our love and affection may not necessarily make our children more self-confident and friendly, we can nurture the skills that do enhance the traits of successful living. And regardless of your children’s innate temperament and genetic makeup, you can expand their potential by teaching them how to live more successful and fulfilled lives.—Michele Borba1
How you live—your priorities, how you spend your time and money, how you treat others and your possessions—is the single best indicator of what matters to you and what values you hold dear. Believe me, your children read your life far more clearly than they heed your words. If both are in harmony, that’s great. If they’re not, it’s time to reevaluate.
As you try to instill good values in your children, ask yourself:
- Can I articulate what my family’s standards and values are? If not, spend some time doing so.
- Can my children tell truth from lies?
- Have I taught my children that there are absolutes of right and wrong? How?
- Have I taught them how to politely disagree when someone accuses them of being narrow-minded or old-fashioned because they believe in right and wrong?
- Have I taught them that there is a difference between who a person is and what a person does?
- Have I taught them to show love and compassion to others?
- Do my children hear me utter polite lies to save face?
- Does the way I live model honesty and integrity?
- Do I treat others the way I want to be treated?—Connie Neumann2
What does it mean to prepare children for life? It means giving thought to how to help your children progress through the natural stages of growth and development, being aware and abreast of what their peers are into or facing, and preparing your children for times when they may have to face similar things. It means teaching your children to have courage when they’re faced with difficult situations, and how to approach new situations responsibly and with confidence. It means that rather than sheltering your children from the negative influences in the world today, you teach them how to judge what’s right and wrong, and how to act with integrity, self-discipline, conviction, love, tolerance, and strength of character. …
Teaching children moral values is a challenge that all parents face. Every concerned parent has to teach his or her children to hold to their values and convictions and beliefs even when exposed to influences that would not be tolerated in their own home, but which are simply a part of life once children attend school, have friends from families that don’t share a similar faith or moral code, etc. Preparing your children is essentially teaching them how to act and behave outside of the “safety” of their home or family structure, how to respond to circumstances with moral conviction, and how to cope when they’re away from their parents, as they face the realities of the world. …
Children today face many influences, and they will face more in the course of life. Some will be positive, some will be negative, and many will be somewhere in between. Taking on the mentality of preparing them for life will help you to accept that you’re not able to protect them from ever coming in contact with negative influences, but that you are able to guide them to learn how to make right decisions when they do come in contact with them.—Maria Fontaine
“The Word of God is living and powerful.”3 It lives in us, speaks to us, and fills our lives with light and understanding. As we drink in the living water of God’s Word, it begins to transform our hearts, minds, and lives. We begin to see things from God’s point of view, which often is entirely different from our own way of thinking. We discover things about ourselves and others that we cannot learn any other way.
We wouldn’t say to a child lost in a forest, “Find your own way.” We would never think of not feeding our children, or not clothing them, or not letting them go out and play and get fresh air and exercise. Neither should we withhold from them the words of life—the power, light, and life of God. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”4
It is through God’s Word that your children will learn what is right and what is wrong, and it is God’s Word that will give them a solid foundation to hang onto through all the tests and trials they will face. And as they grow up, they will indeed face many, because life is a proving ground where we must learn to make choices on the side of what is right and good, rather than what is wrong and hurtful. Young as they are, your children soon find themselves engaged in this spiritual struggle and begin making choices that can greatly affect their lives and the lives of others. As parents, you can better prepare your children for these tough choices by giving them Jesus, a foundation of faith, and a knowledge of God’s Word.—Derek and Michelle Brookes5
Published on Anchor July 2014. Read by Irene Quiti Vera.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 Parents Do Make a Difference (Jossey-Bass, 1999).
2 Parenting in the Home Stretch (Revell, 2005).
3 Hebrews 4:12 NKJV.
4 John 6:63.
5 Keys to Kids (Aurora Production, 2001).
- Living in God’s Word
- God’s Healing Balm in Times of Grief
- Hurry and Worry
- One Thing Before All Things
- Faith Like Gold
- Learning About God’s Mercy
- Trusting Through the Silence
- A Life Well Lived, Today and for the Future
- How God Gave Me a Home
- Setting Our Affections on Things Above