“Instilling Values in Your Kids”
by Shelly Burke, Author of Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom’s Guide to Caring for Herself, Her Family, and Her Home
(Excerpted from Home is Where the Mom Is. To see the Table of Contents, click on the tab at the top of the page. Home is Where the Mom Is makes the perfect Mother’s Day gift for any mom of children who are at home. See ordering information to the right.)
“Values” can be defined as “broad guidelines that can be applied to specific situations.”
When you instill positive values in your children when they are young, those values will help them make the right decisions throughout their lives. But…these values must be ingrained before difficult situations (like receiving too much change at the store, cheating on a test, stealing, or having premarital sex or using drugs) arise and it’s all too easy to make the wrong decision—possibly with life-long consequences.
Think about your values and consider writing them out and hanging them where you and your kids can refer to them daily. The 10 Commandments will probably be included (Deut. 5:7-21) and the Fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—are also great guidelines. You might include honesty and generosity and anything else that fits what you want to teach your kids.
Remember that the best teacher—negative or positive—is your actions. If you curse when you’re cut off in traffic, or tell your child to lie about his age to get a cheaper movie ticket, you’re teaching a powerful negative lesson.
Point out actions that demonstrate your values: “The checkout lady gave me too much change; let’s take it back to the store because that money is not ours—it is not honest to keep it.” “I wanted to yell at the man who cut me off, but that’s not what God wants me to do—he wants me to be patient with others.”
Include your kids in value-instilling actions: A few years ago when a neighbor’s house burned down, Morgan picked out a bag of her own clothes to give to the little girl who lost all of her clothes. For months when we walked past the house she remembered, “All of the girl’s clothes burned, so I gave her some of mine.” Say, “Let’s hold the door for the lady in the wheelchair,” and “Let’s buy some groceries and take them to the homeless shelter so people who don’t have a home can have a meal.”
When you ask about their day at school, use their account of activities to talk about positive and negative examples of values. “So the kids got caught cheating—why shouldn’t they cheat? What were their consequences? See how it’s better just to do your own work and study?”
When your child demonstrates negative or positive examples of your own values, it’s an opportunity to talk about these values. Be sure to take the time to do so, even if you’re busy or in a hurry. The “real life” examples will demonstrate values better than anything you say. As 1 John says, “Dear children, let us love not with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18