It’s easy to talk about instilling family values in your household, but just how to do it can be a little confusing. However, it need not be difficult. With a few basic yet specific approaches and ideas, teaching family values can be incorporated into your everyday life.
What Are “Family Values”?
Generally speaking, the term “family values” usually refers to positive character traits such as honesty, forgiveness, respect, responsibility, patience, empathy, and generosity. How these play out and what form they take varies from family to family.
For instance, one family might interpret “responsibility” as caring for the environment and taking responsibility for a clean neighborhood and healthy planet. In another family, responsibility may be more of a financial nature, referring to responsible money habits. And of course, it could mean both in the same family.
So how do you teach these things? First, think about what these values mean to your family. Does “honesty” mean never telling a lie? Or does it mean being up-front with your feelings and thoughts? What about patience – does that refer to delayed gratification, or being tolerant of others’ quirks?
Once you get an idea of how these values look in your family, you can begin instilling them. Here is some advice on how to do that.
Lead by Example
You may think your family isn’t watching, but they are. If you find it hard to instill patience and tolerance in your kids, maybe they are seeing the opposite modeled in you. Do you have angry outbursts at other drivers when you are on the road? Do you get annoyed when your kids take too long to get ready to go somewhere? Maybe you are not generous with your time or money.
Take a look at your own behavior, and when you modify it, point it out. “Oh, that person cut me off in this traffic! Normally I would get mad about that, but I am choosing to keep calm. Maybe that person has a family emergency going on.” This brings us to another family value that’s come to the forefront lately: empathy.
As in the example above, discuss possible and realistic scenarios for people’s behavior. This will help your children form those “pathways” in their minds so that when someone is frustrating or aggravating, their minds may turn automatically to empathetic thoughts, such as “Maybe she is having a really bad day,” or “That person may be nasty because she lost a loved one recently.”
Try to tie it in with your family’s experiences – “Remember when you (the child) were really upset and didn’t want to talk when your pet died? Maybe that person didn’t talk to you because his pet just died.”
A lot of family values come down to relationships with other people – treating people kindly, being honest and responsible with other’s time, and so forth. The first relationship experiences we have are in our families; therefore, leading by example and taking care to verbalize and explain how and why we act the way we do can go a long way in making family values an integral part of your family members’ lives.