As a parent it is easy to assume that our job is primarily to tell our kids what they can do and what they cannot do. Yet, the job of a parent goes well beyond just displaying a corrective nature when those types of situations arise. Our job as parents also includes instilling truths and values that we hold dear into our children.
What are family values?
Every family unit needs guiding principles or family values. These values will be different for each family, as each family is different. However, whatever the truths and values are that you want to teach, they will more likely take hold and stick if they are grounded in the following:
Feelings of belonging and loyalty
A feeling of belonging should be at the core of every family. No matter what, individuals in a family should feel they are loved and they should feel free to express love. When a sense of belonging is instilled, members of a family will feel they have a foundation and a base-camp, or a sense of security in life.
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No matter what may happen out in the world, if family members have a sense of belonging, they will know there are people that love and care for them exactly as they are. When people inside a family have this sense of belonging instilled into them, loyalty is also learned. This loyalty will be demonstrated throughout life in many different ways and it will become an impregnable fortress.
The family values that you try to uphold and teach your children will not take root if disrespect is allowed inside the family. No matter the ages of family members, everyone should be shown respect. There are certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed—such as disregard for the feelings of others, insults, name-calling, taking someone’s property without asking, and so on. These types of disrespectful acts can keep individuals inside a family from feeling safe, secure, and loved. Also, you must practice what you preach. You can’t tell your children to act one way if you don’t follow the same principles.
On a side note, it is often the most loving families that tend to do things that disrespect each other. It is not always intentional; it is just the nature of people to sometimes take respect for granted because they know the love is there. If disrespect should become an issue in your household or family, it should be addressed and stopped as soon as it is noticed. When respect goes out the window—loyalty and trust often follow behind. When these are gone, family values essentially become non-existent.
Forgiveness and forgot-ness
It can be difficult to keep pain, bad emotions and negativity in check when someone in your family has done something wrong that hurt themselves, you, or your entire family. People can say they forgive each other, but forgetting is hard to do. Yet, the family unit must work hard to both forgive AND forget—no matter how hard it is to do.
It is only when you forgive the person who asks for forgives and you work to forget their past misdeeds that the hurt and misdeeds are able to be put in their rightful place. If not, it will be something that is continually brought up. This hinders the offending person from being able to truly learn and grow from their mistakes. In addition, the person’s misdeeds will become something that consistently remains a barrier between you.
How to identify family values
Now that you know the basic things that will help you ground your family so you can instill family values into your children, what values are you going to teach?
If you don’t know the answer to that question, a good starting place is to think about what you feel are the timeless values and truths that you want to pass along. Timeless values and truths are things that no matter the situation, where you are, or who you are around, how you feel about something and how you approach it remains the same and never changes. Examples may be things such as honesty, that every life is valuable and has a purpose, spiritual truths, etc.
Take the time to identify your timeless values and truths and you’ll be on your way to discovering the family values that you want to teach. Once you know what they are, use everyday situations to point them out to your children. Use every moment possible to reinforce your foundational beliefs and they become a part of your family values.
Recommended reading on family values
For more information and advice on instilling family values, take a look at the following books: