How to Choose Your Family Values & Become a More Intentional Parent

by | Jul 21, 2009 | Character and Moral Intelligence

By Michele Borba

REALITY CHECK: Parents don’t raise moral kids by accident. They know what they stand for and pass those values onto their children deliberately and purposefully. So here’s your Reality Check: If you sat your child down right now and asked: “What do we stand for in this house? or What values matter most to our family?” would your child be able to answer? If not, it just means you’re not tuning up your values strong enough so your child adopts them for his own moral core.

Suppose you were allowed just one wish for your children and just suppose your wish would be granted. Here is the rule: The wish must be something you personally can control (so it can’t things like your child’s health, financial status, or longevity). It must also be something you can inspire or nurture in your family. You may wonder how that wish could have to do with parenting, but what if I were to tell you that your answer is how to create the best legacy to leave your children? All of a sudden the exercise suddenly becomes far more significant, right?

You see, the answer to your wish is what will guide your daily actions and help you stick to what matters in your parenting.  That’s because that wish is what you want for your central mantra for your day-to-day interactions with your family. Your answer will help you make decisions based on what you know if right for your children, so it will reduce guilt, stress, and second-guessing. It is how to develop a moral compass in your sons and daughters that will guide their behavior for the rest of their life. That’s just how serious your wish is. After all, knowing what you stand for and reinforcing your beliefs is how you instill your values in your children. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started in creating your legacy right!

Step One: Create a List of Your Values

Wait until your kids are asleep, turn off the TV, and turn on the voicemail. Get yourself focused and leave enough time so you can really think. Take out your laptop, or pad and pencil. Now answer this question: Aside from good health and security, what traits do you hope your baby will possess as an adult? That will be your greatest wish. Write down as many as you can think of, but write at least ten traits. To get you started, here are a few wishes that parents typically choose.:  compassion, respectful, responsible, persevering, honest, trustworthy, peaceful, resourceful, courteous, fair, charitable, joyful, sensitive, grateful. Pick only ones that are most important to you

Step Two: Choose Your Top Three Family Values

Now reread your list. Which traits really matter to you the most? Start crossing off ones that aren’t as important to you until you finally have your top two to five family values.

Step Three: Select Your Top Value

Now select the one or two values you want most to instill in your children. This is your greatest wish you hope for your family. Next, think seriously: Why did you choose those beliefs? I strongly urge you to write your thoughts so you can read them again and again these next years. It will help reinforce what matters most in your parenting.  Here are a few ways to preserve your ideas:

  • Collect inspirational quotes that match your beliefs. Print them on cards then put them in a place where you’ll be sure to read them such in your organizer or taped to your bathroom mirror.
  • Write a letter to yourself stating why you believe so strongly in your vision. On a specific day each year (such as on your birthday, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day) reread your message.
  • Tell a close friend and then ask her to “gently” remind you ever so often of your belief.
  • Start a parent journal and write your vision boldly on the opening page.

Step Four: Use the Belief in Your Daily Life

Finally, you need to make sure you are using this value in your own everyday behavior. After all, the easiest way for your child to learn any new value is by actually seeing it in action. So intentionally start looking for ways to tune up your chosen value and it’s not too early to start practicing now. If you think courtesy is important, than intentionally start being more courteous. If self-control is your core value, than this is the time to start taking those deep breaths and counting to ten. Remember also to reinforce your child whenever he or she displays the value. “I loved how you smiled at Grandma. That was being really kind. Did you see how her face lit up?” Be sure you name the value, and tell your child exactly how it made a difference.

If you take time to reflect on what kind of parent you want to be and the kind of values you want to instill in your baby, you will be more likely have your wish come true. Doing so is also the best way to create a lasting legacy to your children.

This blog is excerpted from my latest book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries now available for advance order online or through Amazon.

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