EDITORS NOTE: This month’s column is a reprint from the 2019 September issue of Charity & Children. The article won first place in writing in the national 2020 Baptist Communicator’s awards competition.
One of the deepest desires of a parent is to give a legacy of heartfelt values to his or her child. To pass along convictions and principles which have become a part of us through our experience is not only our responsibility but demonstrates deep love for our offspring.
How do we transmit our values?
Taking a few common-sense steps will go a long way toward imparting an understanding of what values are important to you, why they are important, and why you want your child to embrace those values which have meaning to you.
1. First, treat your child with respect in every situation, especially when sharing your beliefs.
Much of what you wish to convey to your child will be accepted or rejected based merely on its presentation. If you treat your child fairly and with dignity, you’re creating an open environment in which the child will feel free to listen and speak. If a child feels you’re talking down to him, he may block the message. Sometimes adults forget children need to feel respected and that their fragile feelings need protecting. Children crave value, worth and dignity.
2. Second, listen to your child.
Truly hear what your child is saying or asking as related to the values you are sharing. Many times, we as adults assume our words are crystal clear to children and the way we say things has the same meaning to our child as it does to us.
Avoid “pat” answers. Your first response may be easiest, but bite your tongue and think more deeply about the question. Your child will know if you are simply repeating platitudes to her without concern for really hearing her.
Children who ask “Why?” aren’t just trying to drive us crazy. They really want to know what makes things work and why we hold the values we do and why it is important that they hold them, too. It takes time and effort to truly listen, but the results are worth it.
3. Third, be aware that you are an example.
There is no question that you are an example: the question is what kind of example are you? If your actions are not consistent with your words, there is slim chance your “lecture” will mean anything to its audience.
Your life-conduct, speech, actions –– form the basis for your witness to your child. The old saying is true: “If a child lives with criticism, he will criticize.” What your child observes in you is what he internalizes, far sooner and more permanently than anything you say to him.
Make sure your life speaks the values you want to impart to your children. Be an authentic model for your child to emulate. Your values will begin to be reflected in the actions of your child.
4. Fourth, encourage and affirm.
When your child makes progress in behavior and demonstrates your values, praise him lavishly, but sincerely. Encouragement helps your child embrace your values, and gives him vital messages about esteem, confidence and courage. The way he feels about himself is determined in great measure by his perception of how you feel about him. Success begets success. Encouraging and supporting your child does wonders in moving him along toward an acceptance of those values which will have great meaning in his life.
5. Fifth, love your child unconditionally and make sure she knows it.
This is the most important ingredient in building a lasting relationship of trust and acceptance. Children are remarkably intuitive. They can sense and feel if you’re authentic. They know if things aren’t the way you say they are. Mistakes may be made but love forgives all. You won’t always like your child’s actions, but you can always love your child.
Children may not always remember the gifts you give them but they will remember the fact that you’ve loved them.
Respect your child.
Listen to your child.
Be an example for your child.
Encourage and affirm your child.
Love your child.
If you follow these common-sense guidelines, not only will your find that you are building a loving, strong relationship but you are building a foundation for your values to outlive you in the lives of your descendants.
Transmitting values must be learned over an extended time. The result is a lifetime relationship between loving parent and loving child.
My Thoughts is written by Michael C. Blackwell, BCH President/CEO