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Values for Children

Children are never too young to learn values. In many ways, parenting is about giving kids good information, solid skills, and lots of support and then crossing our fingers as they go out into the world.

Teaching children values is part of the education that parents and other adults provide.

Teaching Kids Self-Direction with Values

Teaching kids self-direction will help them honor the values you've taught them. When a child encounters a situation that requires them to think through a problem or manage a certain situation, the ability to rely on their own sense of self can help them resist outside influences, such as those of peers. Very young children, including kindergartners and preschoolers may not be able to completely reason through a conflict, especially complicated ones. But, by equipping them with a sound sense of right and wrong, coupled with a strong sense of self, you've given them the gift of self-direction.

Modeling Behavior a Positive Example

Kids learn by doing. They behave in ways similar to that of the adults in their lives. Although many parents parent with a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do strategy, kids most often imitate behavior even if we tell them not to. The best way to teach kids (of any age) positive values is to model those behaviors. Kids that hear parents curse and swear are likely to do the same. Kids that see parents hit and throw things are likely to do the same. Kids that know their parents lie are likely to do the same. Teaching your child values but modeling behavior that doesn't support those values is confusing to the child. When parents say one thing and do another, kids wonder about the importance of those values. After all, if they aren't important enough for parents to follow, why should kids? Although your child may not exhibit the undesired/banned behavior in front of his parents, he will display the behavior when mom and dad aren't around – such as toward a younger sibling, classmate, or neighbor.

Encouraging Kids to Use Internal Thinking

Kids should be able to reason through conflicts using the values parents teach them. Consistency in applying and modeling values helps kids reason through these conflicts and arrive at the right decisions. For instance, if your child is faced with a conflict with another child, you'd rather he talk it through rather than hit the other child, right? Let's say that you always tell your child that it's best to use our words when we're angry, but, when you're angry, you spank and yell. When your child is faced with a conflict, even though you've taught him to talk it out, he'll probably hit and yell because you do. Using self-direction, modeling, and internal thinking, your child can support the positive values you've taught him with positive methods.