In the world we live in today, our values are the soil, water, sunshine and fertilizer that our children need. If given too little sunshine, our children, just like seedlings, will grow unhealthy and struggle to survive. Similarly, just as most gardeners always take the trouble to plant their seeds in a big enough pot, we need to give space to our children in order for them to make and learn from their mistakes. Only in this way, will they be hardy enough to survive, but vigorous enough to bloom and grow when they are finally transplanted out into the world.
A person’s values represent their answers to the big question of how to live. Whether you realise it or not, your child’s value system is being shaped everyday not only by you but also by their peers, teachers, celebrities and the media. The values you transmit to your children will shape the type of life they live as adults.
One of the most important things you can do is set a good example for your children. They learn from seeing how you treat them, overhearing your interactions with others and observing what you do in different situations. If you want your children to display values such as honesty, self-respect and compassion, then you need to embody these qualities yourself.
Even if you are not always the best example, you can use the opportunity to reflect and express to your children what you could have done better. For example, you can say, “Well, I shouldn’t have gotten so upset when that other driver took my parking space.” It may sound a little awkward at first to have these kinds of conversations. However, the more you do it, the more natural it will become.
All the teaching will be undone if there is a discrepancy between what you say and what you do. On the other hand, if your actions are consistent with your words, your message is likely to be reinforced. Your children will only take you seriously if they see that you always practice what you preach.
Use everyday experiences as a springboard for conversation. Each day presents multiple opportunities to talk to your children about values. If you are waiting in line at the grocery store and you observe a customer arguing with the cashier, afterwards you could say to your children, “What did you think about the customer’s behaviour?”
Try to ask open-ended questions that will get them thinking about values.
If you read an article in the newspaper about someone’s heroic deed, you may probe your children, “What would you have done if you had been in the same situation?”
Share your personal experiences. Tell your children some stories, especially those that illustrate how you made choices that were consistent with good values. When you tell each story, describe why it was such a moral dilemma, how you came to make the decision you did, and how everything turned out. You may also want to share some stories where you made bad choices and had to learn some lessons the hard way.
Many parents have the tendency to over-parent. What may start out as a well-intentioned instinct to give the best to our children and get close to them can end up going too far or backfiring. Children need space to make mistakes in order to learn how to be resourceful, confident and competent.
They need to figure out who they are rather than what parents want them to be. Giving them space means letting things happen rather than immediately jumping in to solve their problems or forcing them to do things the way you want them to.
Kids need to learn how to fail as much as they need to learn how to succeed.
The teacher needs to know what knowledge your child has obtained or which areas he or she needs to improve in. You can ensure that your children complete their homework on time but do not correct all their mistakes for them.
Whether it is an art project or a science experiment, sit back, let them create their vision and enjoy the satisfaction of an independent result. You can express interest in what your children are doing by asking questions to learn more.
However, you also need to respect your children’s space and retreat if they do not want you to read their writing or look at all their sketches.
It may be tempting to not make your best move in some strategy game you are playing in order to let your child win. However, a win that they did not earn is ultimately not a win. Losing at strategic games helps kids learn how to strengthen their strategies and see that they can learn from other people.
Your child needs to learn how to be a problem-solver. For example, he or she may have forgotten to bring his or her textbook, uniform or lunch to school. Instead of driving to school immediately with the items, let your children come up with solutions themselves.
You will not know their capacity to find alternatives until you let them try.
This article first appeared on Families For Life, and is republished with permission.
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