Combinations of family values are unique to each family, but several elements are common to most families across the world. Family values help children learn how to be part of this micro-society that will eventually help them fit in the greater society and, in the end, be happier. What are these values and how can we teach our children? Here is an overview of values that we often share without even thinking.
Oscar Wilde said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance”. However, for a child to love themselves, they must first learn to respect themselves, and that respect begins with the ability to say no. We know that as parents, it is hard to let a child learn self-assertiveness while at the same time, teaching them to listen, but we must learn to accept when they refuse certain things, especially when it affects them personally, like when they must choose friends, hug family members, etc. Respecting oneself also means trusting your own opinion enough to be able to share it without fearing to be told off.
Even if our parents, their grandparents, sometimes get on our nerves with their old-fashioned comments, their lack of tact and how they interfere in our decisions, it is very important to respect them in front of our children. They are the reflection of what we will be in a few years, and we would not want our children to disrespect us then. It is also important to teach children to respect their parents and siblings so that they end up respecting everyone around them. Above all, we must avoid speaking ill of others while in our children's presence.
Politeness and etiquette
Saying “Please” and “Thank you”, removing hats and caps when entering the house, holding doors, keeping straight and eating with their mouth shut are just basic elements of the kind of politeness that will make your child a nice person to be around. If you are not sure how to behave, you can consult Letitia Baldrige’s Guide to Etiquette.
Your child’s academic and professional future depends on their capacity to accomplish tasks but also on their willingness to be useful. Having them get used to taking their plate away from the table when they finish their meals and putting their toys away will teach them the benefits of being helpful and useful. It will also make them spend energy on something that will only benefit others, and that concept of usefulness will eventually make them responsible as a citizen.
Honesty and trust
Trust is hard to earn but easy to lose. By teaching your child to tell the truth, to be honest, and frank, you will help them develop healthy relationships, focus on what is truly important and avoid the stress of getting caught. To teach them honesty and trust, you can teach them empathy and ask them how they would feel if they were in the other’s shoes. That way, they will think before they act, or lie.
Obviously, children see, children do. If you scream at your child because you want them to be quiet, they will not get the message. The same goes for politeness. Many parents try to instill in their children the concept of politeness but forget to set the example. How many parents, for example, say “put your toys away”, “give me the remote control”, “get away from the computer”, “close the door” and wonder why their child never says “please” or “thank you”.
Politeness and family values begin with an example. We can teach good values to our children all we want, if we do so by screaming or doing the exact opposite in front of them, they will do what we do, not what we say. Taking some time to talk to our children and setting a good example will help us learn their vocabulary and give them the right message every time.
We must keep in mind that the ultimate goal of family values is to form a responsible adult who can lead a respectable and happy life. Their freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins.