8 Life Values to Share with Children
Be rich, famous, powerful and fabulous. These are the values constantly blared at you in your own family rooms. And guess what? You and I consciously or unconsciously fit into these models.
Of course, doesn't everyone want to fit in? Everyone does. So do you. So what do you do? Fill your lives with all the trappings of wealth, power and beauty. Not so much the essence, just the trappings.
They have to be there to build your image. Otherwise, what would the Joneses think of you? Or of your children? Oh those kids, if they only do what I tell them to do. You and I sometimes hear ourselves say this in utter desperation when they tarnish our dreams of being rich, famous, powerful and fabulous.
Nothing wrong with these. You and I want all these. But are these really the only ones that matter? Are these the only measures of success? Of a man or woman? Are these the only life values we want to share with our children? Maybe not. How then can we make our kids better persons than we are?
Foremost is for you and I to start with ourselves. Let's stop following the expectations of the tribe. Let's gather our courage and stand up for values that life taught us to be essential.
Kids learn from us informally. What they see in you and how you behave in front of them are important. What you talk about, what you watch on television, how you go about with your day, how you relate to others and how you handle situations often teach them more than whatever you can give them in lectures.
When they see you trying to do your best, they will, too. This does not mean you have to be perfect. No. Kids have forgiving and understanding hearts. They are often better in these. Just do what you think is right and they will respect you even if they might not agree with you. Be true to yourself and do your best. And life will take care of the rest.
Here are some of the values to share with kids:
1. A Dream or a Vision
It is important that kids have their dreams to encourage them to reach beyond what they are now; to stretch their imagination at that age when they wish they were Spiderman or Tomb Raider and go around in a permanent Halloween of costumes.
Their capacity for imaginative dreaming is built in. Feed this value. Don't disparage them as air heads. Then move the imagination a bit so they start their own achievable dreaming. The capacity to imagine and create is one of the most employable of skills and if we kill it in the kids we take away a great value asset for their futures.
2. Goals or Direction in Life
What happens to kids if they are always told what to do all the time? As parents, maybe we will indeed grow in our talent for goal setting but our kids maybe deprived of it. Time to guide them to plan their day.
To have goals for vacation that they set for themselves and maybe even get rewards for achieving these goals. Whatever you say, we all like rewards. Look at us watching for our points.
Often, it is easy even for adults to set goals and hard to follow through. This is the same with our children. They need incentives to help them go gungho for those goals.
3. Wealth Creation and Management
Yes, schools teach us that wealth is not to be trusted. That wealthy people are dishonest. They give us little in the capacity to appreciate wealth, the skills to create this and to manage it effectively and equitably.
The world is made up of Gekkos and cheats. We now have many good models around. Billionaires Buffet and Gates championing social responsibility and giving to those who need help. Wealth is neutral and strong dreams can give it enormous power.
Children need to learn this so work is not equated with evil and sleaziness. We often tell our kids that money does not grow on trees. But maybe it does. Hmmmmmm.
I know of one person who planted a forest of trees and this supported his children's education. He is not an irresponsible logger. He works in the Ministry of Environment and got to know how the forests had been denuded so he started planting rare wood trees in his farm, trees that after 15 years he was able to harvest.
But going back to the point, rather than just harping on them all the time, we show them how money can be made responsibly and with hard work and how the joy of using that money well is one of life's great pleasures.
Last summer, I found myself embarrassed when our two grand daughters decided to do something with the birch bark falling off the trees around the cottage. They created some signs, some very funny, some as simple as "park here" and without our knowing they sold them to cottagers nearby who happily supported their effort.
Imagine their new self confidence when they came home with earned income, all from their own imagination. My embarrassment was my problem not theirs and I could have been more helpful in building what clearly is a great entrepreneurial spirit in these two little devils.
Many times all that kids hear from us are admonitions like, " Do you think money grow on trees?" or "You are not old enough to have your own money" or "You're always asking for money." We give them the impression that money is scarce.
In some cases, they hear us fight over money. Are these thoughts or experiences going to help them? The moment they start asking us to buy things for them is the right moment to teach them the value not just of money but of creating and managing money responsibly.
4. Sharing and Compassion
This is very important. Appreciation for themselves and for everyone. So when they give, it is not because of pity but because of the awareness that this world is for everyone. You are the model. Share. Give to others. Help people round you. The kids will see and imitate.
Kids early in life understand this. But as they grow older, they develop distinctions and depending on positive or negative experiences, prejudices set in. Helping others is a basic employment skill, too. Those that reach out usually have so much coming back. Managers quickly identify the helpers and they get the breaks because they help build the whole work team.
While we want to show kids with our own behaviour that giving is better than receiving, we also need to teach them how to receive. Children love gifts and we make them appreciate these. Receiving is so much a part of sharing. When we receive graciously, people are really happy. So we all need to learn the art.
Yes, work. Work. Make work a pleasure and a path to independence for children. They need to able to do things for themselves. They need this to be able to appreciate their own individual capacity and gifts. I can't really say work hard or work smart but just work. Not all the nasty jobs in the house either although they can share those with you.
Don't make work a penalty make it a pleasure. Kids love to do something, learn something, improve their skills so it becomes easy to do things, to make things, to create, to innovate. They love to be recognized for what they do. They love to be able to say: " I am because I can".
It starts with their own self management. And yet, I see kids being served most of the time by parents who see them as treasured house guests! Leaving their dirty dishes around wherever there is space and leaving their own rooms as cess pits. Okokokokok I have a tendency to grumpiness!
But building these attitudes early is a great contribution to building competent adults who are valued in society.
6. High Standards of Performance
That in life there are standards and setting higher standards for yourself makes for a good life is a value we need to share with our children. Believe me, the kids want these, too. And they appreciate seeing models they can aspire to. Many employees right now just want to dump in waste baskets, the mushy perfomance reviews that have become the norm in many work places especially with Government.
If we set standards for kids and make reaching the standards a matter of discussion and fun rather than hollering and punishment they respond to framework they can understand, that is predictable and they can plan around.
Yes, often, this is much lacking. We just murmur thank you but this is more. An appreciation for life. That life is worth celebrating. There is so much to be grateful for. We need to share the attitude that we wake up to life and all it offers in terms of challenges and opportunities.
When a person does this every day and t becomes a habit, chances are his or her days are going to be promising. But for those who wake up to agonies and miseries, the days will unfold in darkness. This is why so many people get depressed.
Awaken to the sun and celebrate the light it brings.
8. Lifelong Learning
Learn continuously. Lifelong learning is an imperative now given the fast changing realities in our lives. The continuous learner is the winner in almost every aspect of life, employment, family and recreation. And you are the model for your gang. Be a learner. Talk about your learning and have fun. There is no leaving school, it just goes on and on, and it better be fun.
Yes, start with your own self. When your values are clear to you, you manifest this in everything you do and inevitably share it with those around you especially your kids. They see you uphold these in everyday situations.
Brian Hall has done many studies and has developed a system to clarify values. I have used his system of clarifying values within the school system I was involved in before.
One of the interesting things we found out when we did this was that, in spite of our support for social change, because our values were still at the level of self preservation or belonging, there was no way we could bring about social change. It was very enlightening.
More Information on Teaching Values to Kids
• Essential Life Skills for Personal Development and Growth
Essential Life Skills, a website dedicated to contributing to your personal development and self-realization.
• Character Education for Children through Principles and Values
Extensive resources for character education and teaching children values with accelerated learning techniques
• 10 Values Your Children Should Bring to School - Oprah.com
Oprah Radio host Rabbi Shmuley Boteach talks about values your children need to really succeed in school.