When my husband Scott and I brought our daughter Maddie home from the hospital, I can remember how terrified we were that this tiny human was now our responsibility and we had a list of things we wanted for her in life. At the top of that list was teaching her values, which would turn out to be one of the greatest jobs we would have as parents. We both had grown up with amazing role models in our lives, and we wanted to teach and nurture her with the same values we were brought up with. The biggest questions we had were, where do we begin and will we do a great job? 

There are many psychologists that weigh in on when you should start teaching your children values. Some will say that little ones notice others’ emotional cues while they are infants.  Others will say by the age of two or three, children have the capacity to understand simple moral concepts. Every child is different, and they develop at different stages. You have to determine when it is the right time to teach values to your child.

Scott and I always engaged in open and honest conversations with Maddie about the importance of being good to others and how what we say and do, shapes our decisions and relationships. As parents, it is important to create a supportive and nurturing environment that encourages your children to ask questions, express their thoughts and feelings, and learn from both success and mistakes. By consistently reinforcing and modeling positive values, we can help our children internalize these principles and develop into responsible and ethical individuals.  

Teaching your child values, gives them understanding that there are consequences for their actions. Values serve to guide children in making ethical decisions, and show empathy towards others. What you do day in and day out, and how you react to things in your life, will begin to shape your children’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. And it is these very things that will influence their actions and interactions throughout their lives.  

So now onto the reason we are here, how do you teach your child values? My best advice is you need to model the behavior and values you want your children to learn. Below are a few examples of some values Scott and I worked toward instilling in Maddie, and could be a starting point for you as a parent, grandparent, role model or caregiver.  

Be a positive role model: Children learn by observing their parents and caregivers, so it’s important to demonstrate the values you want them to adopt. Being a positive role model for your child is crucial in instilling positive values.It teaches them to strive for the best version of themselves. Being positive will encourage your children to navigate their challenges and make better choices in life.

In a world where we occasionally encounter people that lack empathy and kindness, as a parent, we can be intentional in always showing empathy and kindness towards others. Model respectful communication, active listening, and compassion in your interactions. Help your child understand and empathize with others’ feelings and perspectives by discussing how their actions impact others.

Our children need to understand the value of practicing honesty and integrity. We can teach this by being honest in our actions and words, and uphold principles of integrity in all our dealings. It is important to admit when we make mistakes and demonstrate accountability for our actions.

Show patience and understanding in challenging situations and model healthy ways to manage stress and frustration. Use conflicts and disagreements as opportunities to model effective problem-solving and conflict resolution skills.

Exhibit resilience and perseverance: Show your child how to bounce back and adapt to life’s challenges.  This is how they grow from their experiences.  When our children persevere, they will become determined to achieve their goals in the midst of obstacles or setbacks.

It is important to practice gratitude and generosity: Model gratitude by expressing appreciation for the big and small blessings in your life. Demonstrate generosity by engaging in acts of kindness and giving to others in need.

It is so important for our children to establish a moral compass. This helps children differentiate between right and wrong.  It helps them to cultivate virtues such as honesty, empathy, kindness and responsibility. Ultimately we want our children to stay true to their values, even in the face of peer pressure or challenging situations.

Embodying positive values and behaviors as a parent is a powerful tool in teaching these traits to your child. Your role as a parent is not just to talk about the importance of values, but to actively demonstrate them in your daily interactions and decisions. Children are observant learners, and they often look to their parents as role models. By embodying the values you wish to instill in your child, you are not only showing them how to behave but also reinforcing the importance of these principles in their lives.

Creating an environment that fosters open communication and encourages discussions about values can further enhance your child’s understanding of the principles you want them to learn. Engage in meaningful conversations with your child about why certain values are important and how they can be applied in real-life situations to help them grasp the significance of why these are so important. Encourage your child to ask questions, share their thoughts and opinions, and explore different perspectives. By engaging in dialogues about values, you are strengthening your child’s moral reasoning.

Remember that your role as a parent is a continuous journey of learning and growth, and by consciously incorporating these strategies into your parenting approach, you can empower your child to navigate the complexities of the world with integrity and empathy and instill the very values that will make your child an amazing human being.

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You can learn more about our beliefs and visit our video library to explore more topics like this one. You can also check out our events page to find out what fun new things we’re doing this season.

About the Author: Jennifer Bachmann
Jen Bachmann has served at the Taylor campus in the 2|42 kids area for the past six years. She started as a Small Group Leader, teaching in the classrooms, and then transitioned to a lead on Sunday mornings. She says that her main goal on Sunday mornings is to ensure that Small Group Leaders have everything they need to be successful and that Sunday mornings run smoothly. Jen also helps to co-lead 2|42 Kids Worship team with scheduling, mentoring, and recruiting. Jen and her husband Scott have been married for 25 years. They have a 22-year-old daughter, Maddie, who just recently graduated from the University of Michigan - Dearborn with a Bachelor's degree in Behavioral and Biological Science. Jen has spent the past 32 years in a flourishing career at PNC Bank. When Jen is not serving on Sundays, or working throughout the week, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading books, and being with friends.

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