Using Values as a Guide for Parenting

July 18, 2012

As we begin to think about our own values, we may discover that there are a variety of ways of looking at and defining them.    According to Harriet Heath in her book, Using Your Values to Raise Your Child to Be an Adult you Admire, “values are the principles upon which we base our behavior.”  This is reflected by the priorities that we have, what we give attention to, and what is important to us.  We can think of these as traits such as independence, courage, responsibility, etc. or people, things, or life experiences that we value.   Our values are a gift that we pass on to children.

I recently heard an interview of a young man who was being praised for his ability to prioritize.  When asked to name his priorities he said, school, my musical instrument, scouts, and sports, in that order.  This was an example of someone who knew what was important to him.  If we look at the things that he listed, we could assume that being involved in any one of those took quite a bit of discipline, knowledge, organizational skills, and responsible behavior, certainly important values.  I then realized that there was a vital unnamed piece, which was “family”.   Dr. William Doherty, author of the “The Intentional Family”   describes the culture of children as consumers of parental and community services, with little, if any responsibility for contributing back into the family or community.   I wonder what children learn in a society or family where they are consumers of goods and services?   I wonder about the pressure this young man has to “perform”, or if he makes time to attend family events and sit down and have conversations with his parents?  In a culture that promotes “more is better” I wonder about the effect on the quality of relationships.   Many folks today say that “staying connected” is important, and have many devices which they use to keep in touch.  With so many available products to communicate with, how do they teach people the intricacies of building and sustaining meaningful relationships, or is the face of meaningful relationships being changed by technology? While we may value education, sports, music, etc., it is important to balance the values taught through those activities with those we want to teach within the family and make conscious choices to support those values that we want to encourage.  Participating in activities outside the family has many benefits; however, we need to look at the process as well as the product.  Our values guide the decisions that we make as parents, whether we are aware of them or not.  Think about whom or what the driving force is behind your decisions and figure is out if that is how you want it to be.

Spend a few moments visualizing or thinking about how you would like your child to be in 10 or 20 years.  What values does s/he have?  Choose one that you and your parenting partner would like to teach your child.  What behaviors does that person engage in?    What skills does the child need to learn now, in order to practice the value?

Sandy Keiser, LISW-S, CFLE

Catholic Charities SouthWestern Ohio

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