Today too many parents are afraid of their kids. Some are hesitant to teach moral values in such a way that is required if the values are going to stick. They fear their kids won't like them. But we are here to say your kids will like you far less if you don't teach them.
Former college president Joe Christensen, gave important counsel for all parents. He said, "Do not be afraid to set clear moral standards and guidelines. Be sure to say no when it is needed. ... Let [your children] know that there are some things that, as a member of your family, you simply do not do. Some parents seem to be almost pathologically concerned about their children's popularity and social acceptance and go along with many things that are really against their better judgement."
He gave examples like expensive fads, coming home late, dating too early, wearing immodest clothing and allowing kids to view inappropriate movies and TV shows. He went on to say, "It may not always be fun. But parenting is not a popularity contest."
To effectively teach family values to your children takes some planning. First of all, you and your spouse need to discuss and decide what your values are. What do you stand for? You must have your own convictions firmly in mind if you intend for them to be planted firmly in the minds of your children.
Once you have established these values, and both of you support them, you can move forward with teaching them to your children. If you are a single parent, move forward on your own. A strong and loving parent can make all the difference.
Teaching values can be done in many ways. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Be specific
If you think a comment like, "Now, be a good girl," is enough, you are sadly mistaken. Your kids need to know what being good means-in very specific terms. That's when the real teaching begins. If you want your child to be honest, make that point perfectly clear with a statement like, "We don't cheat on tests. No matter what anyone else does, we don't cheat. We study hard and do our best, but we never cheat."
Also teach why lying is a pathway to failure in life. No one wants to hire a cheater. No one wants to marry a cheater. Jails are full of cheating, dishonest people. Give examples in your own life when you or someone you know learned the value of being honest.
There is always a good reason why parents have certain standards. If children understand why a rule is important, they are more likely to abide by it. Arm them with facts.
If, for instance, you're teaching about the dangers of underage drinking, have an article handy-one that tells of a teenager involved in an accident while under the influence of alcohol. Let them see the tragic results. You may also find it helpful to show them things like this quick list of "Tips for Teens: The Truth About Alcohol." Or, for a humorous nudge that shows parents responding to a drinking situation, watch "Don't Be a Bobblehead Parent" with them.
3. Be kind and understanding in your teaching
If you want your kids to really listen and follow your advice, it's important to teach them with kindness and understanding. Never shame or belittle them into obeying family values.
For example, let's say you have decided the proper age for dating is sixteen because, after all, according to psychologist Leslie Beth Wish, "Sixteen-and even a bit older- is a good age for dating, provided that the teen is mature." Start teaching this family rule before your child becomes a teenager. Let it implant firmly in their minds before the desire to date comes along.
Then, when your daughter says, "But Suzie gets to date now, and she's only fourteen. Why can't I?" Be understanding yet firm. Simply say, "I know that sounds fun, but the dating age in our family is sixteen." Then encourage her to have a party with a few friends, boys and girls, closely chaperoned by you or another parent with your same values, where no dating is involved. Make sure you approve of the party plans. Help make it fun.
4. Show examples of people with moral values making wise choices
The famed singer Adele stands out as one who embraces modesty in dress and behavior. Her fame in the music world is unprecedented: "Her trademark dress of a long-sleeved black dress with a lacey overlay is almost startling in this era where most female singers strut onstage in tight and degradingly revealing outfits. Nor does she prance or dance when she sings. 'I don't make music for eyes, I make music for ears,' she has said."
Parents teach best when they are listening to the concerns of their children. When your kids share a mistake they have made, don't look shocked and horrified. Ask how they feel and what they will do next time. Nothing like a little experience to help a kid learn a lesson the hard way.
6. Enjoy living values
Lastly, enjoy living your values. Have fun as a family doing things that promote healthy moral behavior. Let them see that being good is the happiest way to live. That's the kind of love kids desperately need today.