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TEACHING CHILDREN VALUES

We live in a world where we can outsource everything. We can outsource shopping, by shopping on-line, we can outsource homework and lift-schemes by hiring an au-pair, we outsource cooking by buying food ready cut, ready washed and ready made, we can outsource laundry by having a domestic worker, and we can even outsource education by leaving it up to the teacher. But there is one area that cannot be outsourced: Teaching children values. Why? Because these come from you. Values cannot be taught in your absence. For this you have to be present. You have to take responsibility. You have to have the intention, the plan, and the practice.

But we also live in a microwave world. We upgrade computers not because they are better quality but because they are faster. This creeps into the world of parenting too. Where we want our children to be moral, civilized and sociable human beings in a week. We don’t value the process of growth, the process of change and the time it takes. A Jewish philosopher, Rabbi Tatz, said that it is important for children in our generation to plant a garden. They are exposed to so much instant gratification that they need to get back to basics. To see that sometimes things take time. That you plant today but you only see the benefits in few weeks time.

So how do we teach our children values?

1. Firstly, we teach by example. Psychologists call this Modeling. We do not trust that children will do what we say. Children do what we do. Education is about modeling. But what we want to build in our children is often what we have to work on in ourselves too. So if we want them to have respect for elders then we have to show them how respectful we are of those older than us. If we want them to be honest we have to be honest in our own communications. We cannot tell them not to lie; we have to show them what this means. This reminds me of an example when a mom went to the supermarket and her 5 year old was whizzing around the shop with her trolley. She bashed into the chutney and it broke. When her mom acknowledged the mistake, went to the office and offered to pay for it she taught her daughter an important lesson: to be honest and to take responsibility for her actions. This is teaching values. If mom gets angry and shouts at her daughter all the way to the office, then there is a different kind of learning going on. Then her daughter learns that mistakes cannot be tolerated. That her mother gets cross when she makes mistakes. So, we need to be careful about what we model because children learn from what we do and not from what we say.

2. Teaching children values is based upon good communication skills. If you think back to your school days, who were the teachers you respected the most? Who were the teachers you learnt from and you worked for? In most cases, it is more about the relationship than the subject. Your children will learn from you when there is a space to explore, a space to share their own thoughts and ideas without fear of criticism. For this we have to create that space. How? Listen to your child’s feelings. All too often in communication, we are so busy trying to think about our own responses that we never get to hear what others are saying. So we stop sharing and what you have is two monologues between two people. This is not communication. Listen to what your children say. Follow feelings. Acknowledge your child’s feelings. This gives him the opportunity to feel understood This doesn’t mean you agree with him, but it means that you give him the space to be understood.

In this way, he learns respect. He learns that you respect his feelings. You don’t always do what he wants, but you respect his inner experience. This models effective communication for all, and builds an emotional bank account. Your teenager wants to go out with her friends to a club. She knows you don’t approve. To hold onto this value will be determined by the quality of your relationship with you as parents. But the quality of the relationship we build with our children starts from the cradle. You need to keep channels of communication open. How do you do this? Connect! Listen to their questions.

3. Values are synonymous with boundaries. When you teach your child honesty, you are setting the boundaries against dishonesty, lying stealing and cheating. Boundaries are an important part of self-control. Self-control is an important life skill. How do we do this? Set clear limits for your child’s behaviour. You might give him a choice within those limits but the outer limits are defined by you as parents. So you might say to your child “its time to bath, would you like to get in on your own or would you like me to put you in?” Either option is good for you, and the process allows your child to choose. Choices give children a feeling of control in a world where they have little of it. This is valuable and usually effective.


More information about the skills mentioned in this article can be obtained on the CDs called “Do Behaivours” and “Don’t Behaviours”.

 
 
 
The fifth disc in the Raising Children Effectively series has just been released. If you order the remaining CD's from us now we will send you a copy of Sheryl's NEW RELEASE TV, toy guns and sex education at no charge. Total cost including package is R320,00 (R80,00 each). Contact us at sheks@icon.co.za or sms your telephone number to 082 883 0536 and we will contact you.
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