The Early Years: Teaching values
By: Deb Archer for the Lake County News-Chronicle, Lake County News Chronicle
After surviving labor and delivery and experiencing the amazing joy of holding your baby for the first time, reality suddenly hits. As parents we are totally responsible for the health and safety of another human being. This little bundle of joy is totally dependent on us. We must feed, cloth, and meet this baby’s needs 24/7. We must provide a safe home and of course, love our little one. Once we take care of these most basic needs, and as our child grows from an infant into a toddle and preschooler, there are other things to consider. We need to think about all the things we want to teach our child regarding life. Values are one of these things.
Which values do we want to teach and how kids learn these values is an important thing to consider. Whether we like it or not, kids learn much about values through their daily interactions with us. The way we act toward them teaches them much about patience, compassion, and encouragement. Children, of course, learn values through our example. The way we interact with, and talk about others teaches much about what we value. How do we talk to others on the phone? Listen to your child playing with a toy phone and you may be surprised by how they talk and what they say. Whether this experience is encouraging or discouraging, they’ve most likely learned their behavior from us.
Our actions in all sorts of situations serve as a constant stream of instruction for our children. When my youngest was about four years old we went to Wisconsin Dells. While swimming in a wave pool with about 200 other people I found a pair of very cool sunglasses. While trying them on and telling my husband about my find my daughter piped up and said: “Mom, they are not yours and you can not keep them!” Suddenly there was a lesson waiting to be taught.
Teaching the values I want to instill in my children took priority over owning a new pair of sunglasses. We took the classes to the hotel desk where they were promptly tossed into a Rubbermaid container with countless other sunglasses. Though I can’t be certain, I’m doubtful their owner ever retrieved them. Sure, I was out a pair of cool sunglasses but I had a great opportunity to show my daughter that I practice what I preach.
Consider this: Do our kids value family? Do we make family time a priority? Do we eat together at least a couple of times a week? What special things do you do as a family that make your family special and unique? There are lessons in all these things. Unfortunately we can’t control everything our kids see and hear but we can control how we use these situations as teachable moments. As parents we are the first and primary teachers. What we teach (and how we teach) has a significant impact on our children. One of my favorite books, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, by Davis and Keyser is a great read on this topic. Let’s all try to be good teachers and remember there are little eyes watching and little ears listening.