Always model your values

Children will always make choices in life, some right, some wrong. The values you instil, however...
Children will always make choices in life, some right, some wrong. The values you instil, however, will always win through in the end. Photo: Getty Images
Parenting columnist Ian Munro offers advice on the importance of values.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

Some years ago, I responded to the question of how you raise children with values in a world where values seem to count for very little.

That question has arisen again recently. The world is changing so rapidly that it's moved on significantly from when I last wrote on this. So rapidly, in fact, that it doesn't even greatly resemble the world that today's new parents grew up in, let alone that of their own parents' childhood.

Twenty years ago, we muttered and laughed about not believing what a politician said. Today, many of the world's leaders seem to openly and comfortably lie and mislead and think nothing of it.

Social media appears to be hardening opinion into a black-and-white them-or-us approach to just about everything and aggressive and vile name-calling replaces the exchange of ideas and intelligent, informed discussion.

However, the good news is that the majority of New Zealand kids still do grow up to be decent people with decent values. It's sometimes hard to see this when we have paraded before us on a daily basis young people involved in serious misdemeanours.

Not to mention the financial fraudsters, the child abusers, violent parents, the people in high places owning up only to a ``misjudgement'' when caught out and those in the commercial world who see young people not in nurturing, protective terms but in dollar terms.

So how do parents go about pointing their youngsters in the right direction? They do as they say, because their youngsters will be watching. That's every minute they're together for 18 years. If a parent cheats on something, is a little dishonest somewhere, is abusive to others, that will be a lesson taken on board.

Parents need to be clear about the things they believe in, the standards they set themselves and the sort of adults they'd like their kids to be. Even young children have ideas about right and wrong and can make decisions based on these ideas. They observe every aspect of parental behaviour and absorb their values and the way they're applied.

How you model your values will be what shapes your kids' values. Well-established family values will guide their actions as they grow up and move out into the world.

They'll test these values from time to time and, at some point, might try what Mum and Dad don't do. However, the values modelled by you will eventually win through. The stronger children's values systems are, then the more likely it will be that they'll be able to stand up for themselves and maybe even exert positive peer pressure.

If parents respect each other, respect their children and respect others, much that's positive will be achieved.


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