Every day it seems there’s another story of the decline in values in our youth in the United States . Drugs are available in even remote Rural schools. Teenage sexually transmitted infections are skyrocketing. In many schools, teachers are more Police officers than they are instructors. A troubling materialism rears its ugly head even among elementary school students. In our Society, proper moral values seem to be taking a pretty good licking. As parents, this disturbing trend brings the cold sweat of responsibility to our Furrowed brows. “I want my Children to have responsible moral values ” we say “but how do I teach them those values?” Parents cannot make their Kids think like they do simply by telling them, “you’ll do it or else.” Demands and threats may yield short-term results, but they don’t mold our Kids minds. They don’t persuade them that we are right. In a real sense, parenting is the transmitting of our values to our Kids. We want our Kids to be honest; we want them to respect others; we want them to know the value of hard work; we want a moral and ethical lifestyle to be as important to them as it is to us.
However, there’s bad news and good news in this question of transmitting values. The bad news is that we can’t stroll down the wide and easy road of lecturing our Kids on the topic. It might have worked for our parents, but the odds of success have radically tipped the other way. The good news, though, is that it is still possible to pass on our values to our Kids, but it’s going to take some taught and effort. Values are passed on to our children in two ways: by what our Kids see and what they experience in relating to us. When our Kids see us being honest, they learn about honesty. When we talk to our Kids with Love and respect, they learn to talk that way with others. We can accelerate our molding effectiveness by engaging in eaves-drop value setting. That means that Mom and Dad talk to each other about their values but within earshot of the Kids. If we want our Kids to learn about honesty, for example, we allow them to overhear us reporting on our genuine acts of honesty. “You know sweetie ” we might say to our spouse, “something interesting happened to me today. At the store, I gave the Clerk a five-dollar bill for a can of pop,and she gave me $14.50 in change. So I gave her back the ten. I could have said nothing and be ten dollars richer, but I feel so much better being honest and doing what’s right.”
If our Peers tell some off-color and demeaning stories at work, we may say to our spouse, when our Kids can overheard us.” The guys at the Office were telling dirty stories today in the Lunchroom, but I excused myself and ate Lunch at my desk. It always bothers me to hear stories like that. I feel much better for thinking for myself and walking away.” Kids soak up what they hear when we speak to others. It’s great when what they soak up what is good, but be advised: They are sponges for the bad too. Our improper words and actions hit them with the same force. If we have nothing but ridicule for our Bosses and coworkers, our Kids learn that ridicule and sarcasm are an acceptable way to talk. If we cheat at board games or when we play sports with our young Children, then we shouldn’t wring out hands and cry,”why?” when they get nailed for cheating at school. If our idea of a good time is a La-Z-Boy recliner, a six pack of beer, and an NFL doubleheader, our Kids will get the message that that’s the way grown-ups have fun. All of our wise words to the contrary won’t bluntly the point. The way we influence our Kids values is in the way we treat them. A corollary to the Golden Rule applies here: Kids will do to others as their Parents do to them. Treating our Kids with respect teaches them to go and do likewise. Being fair with our Kids makes them want to be fair to their friends and Teachers. Kids have minds of their own. They want to exert their independence and do their own thinking. They blow off the things that are forced on them and embrace the things they want to believe. If we want to pass our values down to them, we must present those values in a way our Kids can accept: in our actions and words. Kids’ values comes from what they see and hear. They don’t accept what we try to drive into their heads through Lecturing.
From Parenting with Love and Logic: