Passing on Values

I remember reading about a research project that studied moms, both in the United States and in Japan, and their desires for their children. The researchers determined that American moms, by and large, wanted their children to be happy. Japanese moms, by and large, wanted their children to be successful.

Happiness and success are often tied together. However, it seems apparent that these two values are also different enough to lead to some different parenting decisions. Do you evaluate opportunities for your child based on the likelihood it will improve his chances of success or the likelihood the child will enjoy it? When your child has completed some activity, are you concerned that she was happy or that she gained skills or experience which will lead to future success?

Happiness and success are underlying values which guide the decisions we make for our children. Its important to note that the moms in this study probably would not have been able to articulate these underlying values, even as they were motivating their decisions.

It’s interesting that if you ask many families to describe their values, they will struggle to come up with an articulate response. Our cultures provides us with many of our values which we often accept without necessarily even realizing that we’ve bought into them.

When asked about values, some families will give an answer like, “we try to follow the Bible” or “we want our children to be good people”. But what does that really mean? I’ve known Christian families who believe they need to move into a racially diverse area in the inner-city to help make a difference in the lives of others. I’ve known Christians who spend many of their waking hours thinking and talking about sports. I’ve known ‘good people’ who spend hours every month volunteering. I’ve known ‘good people’ who simply live their own lives and let others do the same. Obviously, families can have very different values and ways that they demonstrate those values.

Its important to note that each family will pass on values regardless of their ability to articulate their values. Values are much more often caught rather than taught. A parent could lecture regularly on honesty and integrity, but the child is going to learn most from watching how his parents live (or don’t live) a life of honesty and integrity.

So what are the values of your family? Here are some great values:
Love of God, humility, industriousness, gratefulness, respect for others, acceptance of failure, honesty, love of learning, generosity, joyfulness, optimism, perseverance, kindness, grace, curiosity, and sense of adventure.

Of course, most of us would look at that list and agree they are all good things. However, agreeing with a value is far from making it a value in your home. To get some perspective, it may help to think of your home growing up and come up with the three or four values that you think were most evident in your parent’s home. Then step back and think about what values your children are catching in your home.

Passing on values to your children is not about the lectures you give them, but about the values you are living out everyday in your home. It may be worth spending a bit of time to determine what values your children are catching in your home. Are those the values you want to be shaping your children? Any changes you need to make?

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