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Monday, July 18, 2011

So, You Value Your Child. But, What Are Your Values?

Have you, as a parent, ever posed this question to yourself? What are my values? Even toddlers and  preschoolers need to possess certain important values by their fifth birthday. At age five, they are ready for some heavy-duty socialization as they face school and extracurricular activities.

Undoubtedly, you want your child to have integrity and good character. But, do you even recognize and understand your own values? This exercise in cognizance may seem unnecessary; however, taking a look at your own concept of values may prove to be very revealing. You may find you need to adjust a few things in your life to effectively teach your child essential values.

A child will pattern the values of parents and adopt familiar traits of his immediate environment. Unless parents practice good values around a child, he or she is likely to develop a character that lacks the positive traits essential to becoming an upright person. The vast majority of parents believe they are good role models for their children. I don't doubt this is true, yet sometimes even the most responsible parents waffle and have issues with displaying positive personal values.

Dutch researcher Annette Roest studied the role of the family in passing on personal values. She found that parents influence their children. But children also influence their parents. And parents influence each other.

According to Roest, "...certain values are passed on to a child mainly by the father and others mainly by the mother. For example, fathers are important for passing on values relating to ideas about work. On the other hand, mothers are important in passing on self-determination; being able to do what you want of your own free will. But mothers also influence fathers with respect to values concerning the enjoyment of life and having fun." ("Children Raise Their Parents," Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, Science Daily, May 20 2009). 

Value socialization should be regarded as a complex and dynamic process, says Annette Roest. Family members influence each other and, moreover, the value socialization in the family does not occur in a vacuum.

Questioning Your Own Values 

For the sake of your child, maybe it's time to questions some of your own values. Here are some important questions you may ask yourself about the real you. Thanks for the inspiration: "5 Values You Should Teach Your Child by Age Five," Parents, 2011. Here is where you may find a detailed article.

1. Do you value the truth?

Do you practice telling the truth? When you don’t fulfill promises or when you don’t honor your words, you are showing your kids that it is all right to lie. Why is honesty so important? Thomas Jefferson said, "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."

Although honesty has become portrayed as a principle of the past that no longer applies to people, it is the very prerequisite of trust and credibility. Without honesty, these qualities would be impossible to maintain. No wonder honest people gain favorable reputations. Honesty is the foundation upon which people build character. How refreshing it is to find someone who values the truth for truth's sake.

Do you tell "white lies" or what you consider to be minor fabrications to avoid nasty situations with your children? For instance, do you say something like, "Let's not tell Daddy we got candy this afternoon"? A survey in England by Kathryn Crawford and commissioned by the The Baby website found the average parent tells their child a little white lie every single day - just to get their own way. (
This survey of 3,000 moms and dads found that 66 per cent were prepared to turn to a white lie if all else failed.

OK, so telling white lies may not be as detrimental as deceiving others about important matters, but developing "handy" patterns of deceit may make you prone to employing gross misrepresentation and exaggeration. Aren't these outcomes you hope your children won't model?

Parents often lie to their children even as they tell them that lying is unacceptable. It is evident that parents lie to their kids for all sorts of reasons -- to protect them from the outside world, to keep them from harm, and to make themselves, or their kids, feel better. After all, what parent hasn't said, "If you tell me the truth, you won't get in trouble"? Whew! Talk about a lie!

Scientists acknowledge that it's sometimes okay for you to be less than truthful with a child, say, telling a fib about how beautiful a scribbled drawing looks. But researcher Gail Heyman urges parents to think through the issues and consider alternatives before resorting to the expedient prevarication. (Gail D Heyman with Luu and Lee, "Parenting By Lying" Journal of Moral Education, September 2009) It is important to promote the value of honesty.

2. Do you value justice?

Do you consistently make amends when you make mistakes and misbehave? Pride and ego can prevent you from simply "doing the right thing" when you harm others. Many people simply depend upon the passage of time to take away the stings of their misdoings. A child learns something very beneficial when he witnesses a parent who values justice and makes timely, honorable amends.

Gary Direnfeld, child-behavior expert and the author of Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, says, "Interestingly, children, even of the middle age variety, benefit when a parent makes amends. Life is such that when young, we are prone to make mistakes, behave in ways that are harmful, hurt our children. The scars and estrangements can last seemingly forever, but truth be told, until death, can still remain repairable." 

As a parent, you can also insist that your child makes amends when circumstances warrant the behavior. It is relatively easy for a child to say "I'm sorry" when an apology is necessary, but having a child make amends in a proactive way conveys a much stronger message. Making amends is doing something to clean up the mess. It is an opportunity for the child to right the wrong and reconnect with the aggrieved person..

An act of compensation reinforces the essential value of treating people fairly. Such gestures help build strong character by making a child accountable. This accountability involves showing that the incidents requiring forgiveness are the exception, not the rule

You can start the amends process by asking your child, "How can you fix this?" Young children will usually need help and suggestions from you. Older children should come up with ideas on their own. Jean Illsley Clarke, author of Time-In: When Time-Out Doesn't Work, says if your child quickly apologizes and wants to leave it at that, say, “That’s great, I’m glad you’re sorry. But how can you fix Mrs. Brown’s flowers?” Likewise, if he or she suggests you buy new flowers or fix the problem, you can respond with, “It’s your job to fix this, not mine. Think of something you can do.”
3. Do you value accepting a challenge?

Do you exhibit determination around your child? When life deals you major problems and seems to be on the verge of chaos and upheaval, do you respond positively to its tough challenges? Determination helps you meet major commitments despite your limitations. What a major life skill in action your child witnesses when he or she sees you "face things head on" and "dig yourself out of a hole."

Determination is a value that you can help supplant in your children from a very young age. The easiest way to do so is by avoiding excessive praise and by providing children with honest and positive feedback, delivered in a gentle, supportive fashion. You can function as a great facilitator as your child faces significant challenges.

Another powerful way to help kids develop determination is to encourage them to do things that don't come easily-and to praise them for their initiative. And, of course, you should congratulate them when they manage to do things that are difficult for them.

4. Do you value other people's feelings?

Do you really care about others? Do you know that the more you value others, the greater your self-value grows? Steven Stosny, Ph.D., author and consultant in family violence, concludes, "When you value someone else you experience a state of value - vitality, meaning, and purpose (literally, your will to live increases) - and when you devalue someone else you experience a devalued state, wherein the will to live becomes less important than the will to dominate or at least be seen as right."

You should model compassion. When a child sees you donate clothes or raise money for charities, the child understands the reason for that active participation. Nobel nominee and author Thich Naht Hanh once said, “Compassion is a verb. It is an action word."

Even as a youngster, your child understand that others have different thoughts and feelings.You need to talk with your child about the thoughts and feelings of other people and the possible reasons why people are unique and behave as they do.

Teaching a child how to be compassionate allows the child to see the best in humans and helps develop the readiness to give comfort, have sympathy, and offer concern and caring to others. In essence, a child learns to be empathetic and experience the plight of others.

5. Do you value love and affection?

Do you place love at the center of your life and your relationships? First, are you able to do this? It is important to love yourself. If you have severe health and/or mental problems, you may feel incapable of self love and, therefore, feel unable to engage in loving another. An insecure parent can be an unfit parent who cannot express love for a child.

Do you exhibit love by putting others first, ensuring the mutual happiness of family members, taking key responsibilities in relationships, and showing trustworthiness and integrity toward friends? You must let your child see you demonstrate your love and affection for the people in your life.

Some bad behaviors and poor habits can prevent you from being a loving, affectionate parent.  For example, if you become addicted to drugs or alcohol, you cannot adequately express your love for a child. If you are behaving improperly, you must stop this behavior to be a good parent. A child you wish to teach love depends upon you to act responsibly. 

You must continually demonstrate your love for your child.You must make sure that your child’s health records are up-to-date and that your home is safe and secure. You must provide your loved one safe transportation. And, you must observe carefully and ask questions of your child’s caregivers to be sure the care setting is safe, healthy and developmentally appropriate. Naturally, you must encourage and show affection to your kin.

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