Day 19 of the 30 Day Writing Challenge
Children are our greatest gifts. From us to the world, and from creation/God/who or whatever to us. But raising kids is a lot of hard work and a lot of heartache at times. I am not a mother, but I don’t believe one has to be a parent to understand how to relate to children, or to raise and guide them. After all, it takes a village. And even spinister aunts have something to offer children.
I think we can all agree that they way our parents raised us is not the way we are raising our kids. And family dynamics have certainly changed over the last thirty or forty years as well. We have more blended families, more single moms, more families with both parents working than when I was a child in the 1980s. Lifestyles have changed, values have shifted and today’s children have more voice than children have had ever had in history.
I am not a child expert or a parenting coach. These are merely my thoughts how we can all raise children with strong values.
We all want to raise our kids to be happy, well adjusted members of society. But how do we instill values in our kids in a world that is now so varied in values and traditions?
Have Clear Expectations
We all need clear expectations. And you as the parent need to know exactly what those expectations are and communicate them to your children. If you expect that screens go off at dinner time, state that expectation. You don’t have to be dictatorial, but you have to be clear. Try saying something like, “dinner time is for family, not for screens” or “screens go off at dinner time.” Knowing what the expectations are helps kids strive to meet those expectations and avoids conflicts and confusion.
The expectations shouldn’t vary from day to day or week to week. If screens go off at dinner time, then they are off every day at dinner time. It’s going to confuse your child if you allow screens one day and then not the next, and they will likely try to push back against your expectation or get around it more if you are inconsistent. Of course, exceptions can be made for something like the Santa Claus parade or a special Olympic sport your family is fond of watching.
Model the Values
My first two tips above are really just general parenting advice. Having clear expectations and being consistent is something anyone with children, or who works with children needs to practice in order to teach anything else, like values or math. It’s going to be extremely hard to instill values if you don’t have the first two as part of your child’s upbringing. Onto modelling the values. Simply putting, modelling is showing your child how to do something. For example, if you want them to draw a snowman, you might draw one first with them. So if you want your children to be kind and respectful, you have to model that every day by being kind and respectful. Towards them and towards others. That may mean holding your tongue a lot of the time. But essentially, you need to practice what you preach.
Think about the values you value. If kindness is one of them, you need to be authentically kind, not just kind in front of your kid. Or at Christmas time. It needs to be apart of how you live and if it is, it’s naturally modelled because it’s authentic.
I could be old school here and point out that in the Bible it says, “judge not lest ye be judged.” But hey, if the shoe fits–and in this case it does. Try not judge your child’s actions and mistakes. They need to make mistakes to grow and learn. Be stern if you have to, but be fair and non-judgemental. Help them to understand why their action was wrong, not judge and make them feel as though they are wrong. And don’t judge others around your kids. They’ll know it and learn from that –it’s modelled after all–and likely be less open minded and fair than you’d like as a result.
Hold Them Accountable
We can’t make excuses for our kids, or swoop in to rescue them every time they get into trouble or make a mistake. Instead, they need to be firmly but gently held accountable. Let’s say your child is hit and punched by another child. You want that child held accountable, right? But what if your child was constantly teasing and tormenting the other child? Should he/she also be held accountable? Neither party is innocent in this scenario, and both can learn a valuable lesson if they are held accountable. This aids children in making better choices and understanding their role in social relationships and society at large.
My final thoughts include this: don’t stress too much. You and your child are human beings, and neither of you is perfect. None of us are. You are going to make mistakes, and your child is going to make many because they are learning how to navigate society and it’s complex structures and etiquettes. To instill values, you need to be present in your child’s emotions and behaviours but you don’t need to police your kid 24/7. Some things are only learned through lived experience after all. For example, that well meant jokes can hurt. Children need to be allowed that room to grow, to make those mistakes and not be judged too harshly, but gently and persistently set back along the path towards the values you wish to instill like kindness and respect. Modelling the values you want to instill sends clear messages to children as they generally will not engage behaviours they don’t see modelled regularly.
How do you instill values in your own children? Share in the comments.