My sons are coming home from a youth convention. They go every two years with our youth group. I’m anxious to hear what they’ve learned, how they’ve been challenged, and to how they’ve been inspired. Then the real work starts – instilling values they’ve learned at the conference into their daily lives.
Instilling values is a complex process because it doesn’t just happen at youth retreats, scout camps, or from that inspirational speaker at school. Instilling values happens day in and day out in our homes and is reinforced by outside events.
Kids absorb our values whether we think they do or not.
That’s good if were’s instilling values we want them have, but it’s detrimental if our speech and actions don’t reinforce each other. I’ve learned a lot about instilling values from my children and those I work with in schools. Five crucial things to consider for instilling values include:
- Practicing what you preach. Kids believe what we do, not what we say. When these things contradict each other, kids look at parents as hypocrites and parents lose trust and credibility in their eyes.
Rules without relationship equals rebellion (Josh McDowell). Kids listen to what we have to say when we’ve spent time building a relationship with them. This doesn’t happen over night. Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you have an automatic relationship with your child. It has to be cultivated.
- Be honest and humble with your child. When you mess up, tell them. Kids know when we aren’t being authentic or when we mess up. We gain respect in their eyes when we talk about our own failures and humanness. This doesn’t mean we excuse harmful or unhealthy behavior. It means we tell them when we are wrong and in good faith try to correct when needs to be corrected.
- Be consistent in your values. Children crave consistency because it makes them feel safe, secure, and stable. A child will consider your values as an adult if they see them in practice and see the benefits lived out over time.
- Tell your child why believe what you do. Don’t just assume your beliefs makes sense to your child. Once they realize not everyone thinks the way you do, they’ll challenge what you believe and value. If what you value is something you want your children to consider as a core belief, share with them the “whys” you believe what you do.
As my older children are becoming adults, I’ve seen them process the values they’ve been raised with. They’ve challenged some along the way. And they’re choosing some as their own as they develop relationships, enter the work world, and are living on their own. It’s hard work engaging in the five principles above while instilling values. But like any other job, it’s work that pays off in the end.
What are ways you engage in sharing your values with your children?