Last year, I participated in a local leadership program that encouraged us to not only list our values in life, but to really think, act and live fully on their essence.
It became a transformational journey for me that slowly trickled in to the home. First, I was discussing my values with my husband and learning about which principles he held in high regard, but soon enough, I was looking to my son and realizing, “He will learn from this. What I value, such as courage or honesty or kindness, will surely affect his own actions and choices in life.
“Every day, my son is learning. From me.”
Today, I continue to reflect and refine what I value in life and in relationships, and not just for my own benefit, but because my husband and I are raising a young boy who learns through observation. All the time, he is instinctively watching and listening to how we treat ourselves and how we treat others, and he imitates that behavior as if it were the natural, right thing to do.
He is learning, but not intentionally so, because a value is not always easy to learn. Values are abstract principles and standards, one’s own judgment of what’s important in life. So if we want our children to notice, how do we concretely model our values in a way that a child will not only comprehend and consider, but act on in their own life as well?
With repetition and reiteration of our physical actions, all the time. To honor our values in our home, we praise them consciously and articulate them openly, so our son is not only aware of their importance but begins to connect a positive action with a worthy value. And we reinforce these values for our son, too, when he demonstrates them. “We see you being so kind to our guests!” or “Thank you for telling us the truth and practicing honesty!”
And we focus on the relationship we have with our son as well. The closer and more loving we are as a family, the more open and intuitive our son will be to our actions and choices we make together. We build trust and an environment where each of our own principles is safe and revered.
Someday, I will see which values matter in my son’s life. I will watch him build relationships and make big decisions based on principles that matter to him and no one else. And I will love him for exactly who he has grown to be. But for now, I do my best to honor the values I have chosen for myself and trust that these values are not only building a safe, honorable home, but are enriching my son’s life as he grows. Every single day.
About the Author
Angela Tewalt is a writer, storyteller and mother to two boys. She shares parenting stories and inspiration in Guidepost Parent.
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