“Values are the seeds from which all behavior grows.”
1. Value centered homes develop value centered children.
Children who demonstrate compassion, respect, responsibility, perseverance, initiative, and integrity have parents who demonstrate these qualities on a regular basis. In Value Centered Homes children not only observe moral decision making but they are also taught the importance of character and ethical decision making skills. You’ll hear frequent references to “Is that the right thing to do?” Charts and posters are displayed throughout the house to remind children of what’s the right thing to do. Parents are knowledgeable about the power of the model. They know that seldom, if ever, do kids improve without a model.
Parents know the importance of finding new tools and strategies to strengthen their children. A simple mobile hanging above their bed that says “Find a Way” on one side, and “Make Excuses” with a line through it on the other side, will help children learn the responsible way to think. A brief note in a child’s lunch box or under his/her pillow can promote a moral message that will last a lifetime!
2. Children who are clear about their values have little or no difficulty in making decisions.
“If a civilization does not identify and promote core ethical values and beliefs they will negate one thing after another.” Parents who know there is a right way to behave and treat others with respect, contribute to their children’s moral development. Ants, after finding a bread crumb, don’t ask “what is the fat content?,” or “is it white or wheat bread?,” they simply take it back to the colony. Human beings are far above the insect world. We should ask questions like “does someone need the bread more than I do?,” or ” Did someone lose the food?,” etc. Children who live in a climate of ethical decision makers know that “It’s not who is right, but what is right!” They work toward the resolution of problems, rather than being consumed by problems. They know that problems are merely questions that need to be solved. When there is a problem, the parent refers back to one of the family’s Core Ethical Values in order to help the children see that problems develop character. If children are taught that when there is a problem with a brother or sister, it is best to “work it out with kind words”, then seeing parents use the same principle will help them solve problems with confidence and compassion. Parents can list alternative ways of solving problems in a “Home Journal”, or put up a few posters to remind children that this family always finds a way and solves problems rather than neglect them.
3. Children learn to respect each other when there is a program on Respect.
Homes, schools, and communities will continue to fail in developing respectful citizens as long as they cry “I don’t get any respect”, “all I need is a little respect”, or “kids don’t show respect these days.” The answer lies in developing relationships where parents demonstrate consideration and hold their children in high regard. Often people who demand respect the most deserve it the least! Countless hours have been wasted by parents, schools, and by individuals who merely describe all the problems our youth possess. Describing disrespectful acts people demonstrate, will never change behavior. Effective parents not only describe what they need, but they also implement a program on respect. Invite children to fill out “Respect Reports” on their brothers and sisters, or keep a Respect Record of their own acts of respect. This will create respectful children! “Respect is… demonstrated consideration and high regard for others.”
4. Cooperation and collaboration are paramount in a value centered home.
Parents who promote cooperation and collaboration are well aware that the “moon doesn’t shine without the sun.” In the early years they help their children see that “one hand washes the other.” Cooperation and collaboration can be introduced to children through the example of a bee hive. Bees are one of the best examples of cooperation and teamwork! One type of bee gathers the pollen, another makes the honey, while others fan and cool the hive for the worker bees so the queen can have a perfect climate for laying her eggs. Children can be taught that a person rarely accomplishes things by themselves, and that a family really isn’t a family unless each member gives up some comfort for the comfort of others. The word team is another way of teaching cooperation. The four letters in the word stand for “Together Everyone Achieves More.”
5. Children learn how to become ethical decision makers when parents focus on ethics, not just rules.
Obedience and responsibility are two totally different concepts. Children not only need to obey their parents, but also internalize the ethics that build strong character. “Rules do not equal ethics, except in a perfect society.” In our imperfect world, we must make room for ethic awareness. If we only expend energy on rules, our children will not know how to handle ambiguity and situations where rules do not exist. It’s been estimated that over 80% of our choices in life, while they have definite consequences, do not have rules to regulate our behavior. Effective parents help their children learn that rules come from ethics, not ethics from rules. Ethics are the source of all laws and rules. Ethics are not only the bedrock truths from which we build our society, but also the foundation for all relationships. “Ethics focus on the way things can be, not on the acceptance of the way things are.”
6. A values based home fosters personal responsibility and initiative in each child!
I’ll never forget the five year old in my school named Kevin. Kevin not only could spell the word initiative when he was in kindergarten, but he also knew that it means “you get involved in it without anyone telling you to.” Effective parents train their children when they are young to be responsible by giving them the language of responsibility. They also give their children many opportunities to assist around the house. They recognize that the best way to teach responsibility is to give kids responsibility. Value based families are not only great models of personal responsibility, but are also very cautious in giving their children too many things, without having them work toward different goals. Parents promote home campaigns such as “IF IT NEEDS TO BE DONE, I’LL BE THE ONE!” Children are driven to find a way, not to make excuses. If a lot of presents become a habit, it might contribute toward irresponsibility. It’s almost better for parents to receive the presents with a note which reads “when you see your son/daughter being responsible, please let him rent this toy from you for 15 minutes.” During family meetings, focus the family discussions on how the family “Finds a Way” while other families make excuses. Children then are driven to find alternatives, rather than fault themselves or others. Families that take time to look in on themselves are much more effective families. Keep a record of responsible attitudes and responsible acts, then celebrate those attitudes and actions with your children. “Discipline is like a bridled horse with the reins held lightly.”
7. An emphasis on bedrock ethics and values will develop an understanding and appreciation of others’ differences.
Effective families place emphasis on others. They have a program on others by first being kind to their own children, and by letting them know how important it is to be kind to one another. Treat others the way you want to be treated and become a great need analyst by defining what the unique needs of others are.
As violence, indifference, profanity, and abuse escalate, the need for compassion increases. Healthy families know the power of empathy and caring. They know that “love never fails” in getting results. The more you love your children, the higher you can set your expectations for each child. Homes with a clear values program invite children to sit in “The Care Chair” and to describe the way compassion was shown toward each other. They encourage the giving of Care Cards to others! Posters and charts can be placed around the house which promote compassion and kindness. “Kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
8. Value Centered homes promote personal and moral integrity.
Effective families encourage learning pledges such as the following integrity creed. “You can count on me! I am a person of Integrity! Everyday I will do a little bit better than I did the day before, to be more truthful to myself and then to others. I am a person of Integrity. You can count on me!” Children learn, that while they don’t live in a world that demonstrates integrity, they can help create a small island called home, where people can count on each other and trust each other. Children who demonstrate integrity will not only stand out in a crowd today, but will also be highly prized and valued in the world of tomorrow. Effective families count on each others’ commitments and promises. They learn by example never to make a commitment unless there is a plan to keep that promise. “Truth needs no memory.”
9. Value centered families develop children who demonstrate Positive Mental Attitude, or P.M.A.
Effective families promote positive energy. Their rules include such things as “If you take energy away from the family, you have a responsibility to give energy back to the family.” They learn by their parents example to aspire higher and persist longer. They know that failure is only a temporary setback toward achieving ultimate success. These families look for, and work for, the best possible results. They live purpose-driven lives with a driving force of determination and perseverance. They learn early in life that “Winners never quit, and quitters never win!”
10. Value centered families have at the core of their values spiritual principles.
They know that the major problems in life are spiritual problems and thus require spiritual solutions. They help their children know that they are an unrepeatable miracle woven together like no other person. Because of their parent’s disciplined life, children observe the principles of honor, worship, relationship, gifts, spiritual strength, faith, hope, charity, endurance, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation. Effective families help their children see and experience the unconditional love of God in every aspect of their lives. They help their kids see cars are not the only thing recalled by their maker!
Gene Bedley was chosen as the National Outstanding Educator of the Year by the PTA in 1985. He has been a pioneer in developing Value Centered Schools and families. He was awarded the Milken National Educator Award in 1994. Gene is an Educational Ethicist who is currently executive director for The National Character Education Center in Rancho Santa Margarita , California. He is the owner and president of People-Wise Publications, Rancho Santa Margarita, California. His school-wide ethics program, Values in Action! is currently being used in over 5000 schools throughout the world.
– Gene Bedley