Welcome to the final post that I will be making on the topic of morals and family values. I’m sure you are more than ready to move onto a new topic and tomorrow I will have a great recipe for you to use at home.
But back to our topic on teaching morals and family values. If you remember, I started this topic with my post here and I also talked about things a parent can do, here. Now let’s talk about what you can do with your child.
- Try not to focus on material gain or feeding egocentricity. I was guilty of this when my oldest started JK and it was really the result of my own fears that he might be picked on or bullied. At the beginning of his first year, I was constantly told how empathetic my son was and how he would often take children who were having a hard time adjusting under his wing. I heard wonderful comments like, “If it wasn’t for Jake (my son), the first few month’s of Timmy’s school year would have been horrible.” (I have changed the names of both children for privacy reasons.) After a while, I forgot about reaffirming his compassionate nature and began worrying about how popular he was. If a child in his class had the latest and greatest toy, I would run out and make sure that my son had the same toy. When he came home from school, I often centralized my questions about his day around extrinsic influences and things that he got and I began to focus less on the values I had already set in place. Fast forward a year and I had a child that primarily cared about feeding his own needs without thinking of others. I had to do some major damage control and change the way that I approached things. I can’t really blame him for much of the problems since I was illustrating to him that it was more important to have than to give but after some rough patches, we have begun to see some of his natural compassion again. The thing to remember in this is that children are egocentric creatures and for a period of time, and that is perfectly okay, but parents need to explain and illustrate times when that egocentricity is not okay. So the lesson on this is “Don’t focus on what your child doesn’t have, but focus on the less concrete items, such as the love and friendships that he or she does have.
- Donate items from your home to Goodwill or another cause. I don’t have garage sales and this is partly to do with the fact that I’m just not a big fan but the main reason why I don’t have garage sales is that the money that I can make from a garage sale can be better used by places like Goodwill or the Salvation army. When you donate to these places, it is best to have your child take one or two toys (or more if they are drowning in toys) and place them into a bin to take down to the drop box. Make sure you give some of your items away so your child doesn’t feel this is a one sided deal that they are the only ones that has to suffer through the giving. Things like old furniture, shoes, and clothing are great choices and I’m sure you have lots of all three that you don’t use anymore. I like to go through the items in January right after they have received a whole bunch of new toys over the holidays. This way, they are more likely to give up an older unused toy since they have to make room anyways. Other times that I do this are in the spring and fall and usually coincide with my big spring and fall clean up to remove clutter.
- Volunteer with your child. When I was a Cub Scout leader, another leader in my group also volunteered their time at the local soup kitchen on a weekly basis. Although her 13 year old son wasn’t involved every week with her, he did come down once a month where he would help serve the food. For them, volunteering served many purposes but the main thread of reasoning was that he learned through example that giving one’s time for those less fortunate is a great thing to do and he also became aware of people that needed help and how he could affect them for the better.
- Sponsor a child or a cause. This is something that I do personally with my family and my oldest son takes the time to send letters to the child in Kenya that we sponsor. It doesn’t seem like much but it has opened up a lot of awareness in my children on how there are those that are much less fortunate than we are. Being able to converse through letters brings the message home and it has had a lot more affect than simply dropping items off at a drop box. There is a face that goes along with the giving and a voice that can be heard through the letters. Take the time and talk to your child about what they want to sponsor. This is a great way to teach morals, family values and also provides opportunity to learn about the world together. My oldest wanted to learn everything about all the countries that needed help before we decided as a family on Kenya. So change not only one life but your families as well by sponsoring a child or a cause.
- Give a gift at Christmas. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there is nothing wrong with giving a gift to a toy drive during the season. If you do celebrate, I would encourage not only giving a gift of your own but also having your child go out and purchase a gift to give (with their own allowance). My oldest son chaffed at this the first year but my youngest only grumbles about how he doesn’t have enough money to buy more. Have your child drop it off at the toy drive so he or she can be part of the whole process.
- Have open dialogue. Nothing helps build values better than having an open dialogue with your child. Answer their questions, share your own views on morals and values and let there be give and take conversations. All the steps above offer ample opportunities for open dialogues.
- Finally, don’t stress if your child doesn’t always follow the morals and values that you have so diligently worked on instilling. It takes time and everyone makes mistakes, I know I do, so don’t expect your child to grasp all the values perfectly and don’t beat yourself up when they do.
If you have anymore tips on instilling family values, please feel free to comment.