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Parenting Press: Teaching Your Values

Tip–Communicate your values to your children clearly and frequently.

Keep in mind–Unless parents deliberately identify and teach personal and family values, children will unconsciously pick up their values from peers and society in general.

Tools–Kathryn Kvols, president of International Network for Children and Families, recommends parents be subtle and creative in teaching values and uncompromising about holding to them. The following tools are only a few of the ideas she describes in her book Redirecting Children’s Behavior.

Link to book description
  • Set rules around your values. One set of parents set a high value on family time; they require all family members be present at dinner time and allow no interruptions from the phone or television. You may hold strong religious values and set a rule that all family members attend services each week.
  • Look for teaching opportunities. You can look for and comment on examples of people holding your values (or not demonstrating them) in books, the media, or the neighborhood. Discuss with your children the benefits or consequences of the actions you see.
  • Discuss your own struggles with your values. Hearing you think out loud about your values will help a child clarify his own values. For example, a parent might say, “I was out of the store and ready to go in the car when I realized that the clerk gave me two dollars too much. I was already running late, but I knew I had to go back in and give the money back. I told myself it’s not okay to steal.”

Kvols points out that actions speak louder than words. If you don’t adhere to your own values, your children will treat them with no greater regard than you do. When you care enough to stick up for your values, your children will develop a deep respect for you and themselves.

You’ll find more practical tips you can use right now in Redirecting Children’s Behavior by Kathryn Kvols.

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