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The art of teaching values to our children

Mother and child drawingMost parents, when asked about what they want for their kids’ future, will answer something like: “I want my children to be successful and become people of good for this society.”

How do we achieve this goal with our little ones? Most parents will say: “By teaching them values.”

What exactly are values?

A value is something we consider to be important or beneficial, of which we have a high opinion. Values are very unique for each family; but most of us can recognize some universal values such as being respectful to others; the value of the family; maintaining good health; or the value of obtaining a good education or learning to work.

The importance of values

Values give us consistency and predictability in life, both very important for a child’s healthy development. Although toddlers are not developmentally ready to consciously understand values and morals, they can begin to follow the examples of those around them. As children grow, values can help to guide their decisions. For example, a child who has learned that caring for others is important is more likely to help a friend who is hurt. Likewise, a child who learns that it is important to contribute to the work of the household by helping mom or dad with chores will be more likely to take the initiative to put her toys away or help with chores later.

What values do you want to teach your children?

Here are some questions to think about as you consider what values you want to teach your children:

  • What are your own values?
  • What values did you learn from your parents that you would like your children to have?
  • Are there any values did you not learn until you were an adult you hope your children learn early in life?

How to promote values?

  • Make it intentional: Be a good example for your child. Children learn values by watching you and the way you treat others. Think about the way you act in order to demonstrate the same values you want your little one to learn. This is the way I learned to be respectful like my dad, and friendly like my mom.
  • Be consistent with your routines: Routines can also communicate values such as the importance of family. Routines such as sitting as a family at the dinner table, or reading a book every night, will help your child have consistency in learning the values you want her to learn.
  • Give praise and positive attention to your child when he starts demonstrating some of the values you like.
  • Tell your child what you would like him to learn. This should be done in a way that is encouraging and positive, rather than by nagging or being repetitive.
  • Teaching values through books and games: Using stories and playing with your child is one of the most effective ways to indirectly teach her what you value and what you believe is important.

Dr. David Anglada-Figueroa is a clinical psychologist with a passion for families and children and a spokesperson for First 5 Sonoma County. First 5 encourages parents to Read, Talk, and Play every day with their babies. For more information, visit first5sonomacounty.organd