THE VALUE OF VALUES
Even if your children’s school is doing an excellent job of steering them right, as your own kids they still absorb their strongest “how to live” impressions from you.
It’s unfortunate that most education today concentrates on facts at the expense of ethics. Sometimes even schools that attempt to teach ethical values do it less than effectively: tolerance instruction that forbids even civil expression of contrary opinions; self-esteem instruction that “protects” children from the sting of failure by depriving them of opportunities to conquer challenge; integrity instruction that is expressed halfheartedly for fear of inadvertently being intolerant or injuring someone’s self-esteem.
Even if your children’s school is doing an excellent job of steering them right, as your own kids they still absorb their strongest “how to live” impressions from you—and far more from what they see than what they hear. If you extol honesty to your kids and then instruct them to tell callers you aren’t home; if you stress the value of productive activity but your children rarely see you doing anything except slumping in front of the television—you can’t blame anyone else’s bad influence if the kids do as you do and not as you say.
Here are a few values everyone should internalize as young as possible. Make sure you are setting a positive example in every category.
This means more than not shoplifting or cutting school. It means not telling “little white lies” just to save face or avoid uncomfortable situations. It means keeping promises, finishing what you said you would do and showing up when you said you would. It also means not making excuses when you goof, but offering prompt and straightforward apologies.
One thing honesty does not mean is being brutally blunt. If someone asks, “What do you think of this blouse?” and it looks like a discolored grocery sack to you, consider the context. Has your friend just bought it, and does she obviously love it herself? Then, while you needn’t lie outright and say you find it gorgeous, remember your opinion is just that—an opinion—and say something to the effect of being happy to see her happy with it. Is she trying it on in a store, and genuinely wanting your advice on whether it’s a wise choice? Then you can admit you don’t care for how it looks on her—but don’t use such loaded words as “ugly.” Offer specific suggestions on looking for something that fits better at the waist, matches her eyes better, etc.
Kindness means always being ready to help someone in difficulty, while also respecting everyone’s human dignity:
- Share with others.
- Never make fun of anyone else, even behind their backs.
- Be patient when someone is slow.
- Offer help when it’s needed, but don’t immediately jump in and take over for anyone who is struggling: you may inadvertently insult their competence, or even make the situation worse.
- When you disagree with someone, think twice before voicing it—and if you do voice it, state the reasons for your own opinion reasonably, without attacking the other party’s intelligence or character.
Don’t always take the easy route. Have big, audacious dreams, and work hard to achieve them. Have confidence in your own ability to know what you were made for and to help build a better world for future generations.