teaching children values
Image: Edwin S.

Written by Crystal Schwalger

Many people these days seem to think that values are somehow old fashioned and not something that we need. However, all you have to do is to turn on the nightly news, or look at our daily newsfeed on Facebook and you can see that values are something desperately needed and missing in society today.

Many parents don’t realize not only how important teaching values to children are but also that they can be taught from the time the children are toddlers. If you wait to teach some values until a child is older, they may never learn it. Toddlers—as well as young children—can learn the values they need to grow to be successful adults. All it takes is time, patience, and example.

Values are individual or personal standards of things that are valuable and important. They are our guidelines on how to live and interact with others. Self-help guru Steve Pavlina describes values as “your current estimations of truth. They represent your answer to the question of how to live.”

Our children’s value system is being shaped everyday from the world around them; parents, teachers, friends, neighbors, and even the media all have an effect on what type of values our children learn. As we know, the values they learn today will have a powerful influence on the type of person they will become as an adult.

Values help instill the sense of right and wrong within a child. They even have an effect on what motivates children, how they spend their time, money, and energy. The values they learn—or lack—today will be a heavy influence on the person they are tomorrow. Our goals as parents should be to instill those values which will be the most beneficial to them not only now but for the future.

Some values are more important to learn than others. One of the most important values that I believe children should learn is good old-fashioned honesty.

As with everything else our children learn in life, children learn honesty the best when they see it in us. I worked at the front desk of the Community Center a couple of years ago, and I cannot tell you how many times people lied about their children’s ages just so they could save a dollar or two. I could always tell when the person was lying because the child would look at their parent with questioning, wondering eyes. One time a child even corrected their mother, and then the mother went on to tell me that the child was delusional and didn’t know when their birthday was. It made me so sad because I knew that child was learning dishonesty from the very person who should be teaching them to be honest. Experts say that children who learn honesty as a child grow to be adults that are happier, well-adjusted, and feel better about themselves.

A second value children need to learn is hard work. When a child learns to work, they find an inner joy that they can accomplish something. They learn how to help others and have a better sense of who they are inside. Work doesn’t always have to be “hard” to be meaningful. My parents taught me growing up to always do my best when I am doing something. Children who learn how to work as a child become adults who can be relied on to finish tasks and are more likely to become leaders and well-respected.

Going hand-in-hand with hard work is the value of determination. This is a value that can be taught from a very young age. Encouragement without excessive praise can help a child learn this skill. Life is not always easy and is full of challenges. When we encourage a child to overcome these challenges and to try to do hard things, we can help them to accomplish dreams and goals. This also will set them apart from others as an adult.

Empathy and consideration for others is another important value for a child to learn. Having empathy not only helps build and maintain relationships, but according to experts who study emotional intelligence, empathy is also the building block for our conscience. Empathy also helps us to build a bridge between others, and is the foundation of tolerance, compassion, and harmony. Teaching a child to value other’s feelings can help them in school, in their family, and as an adult, and can help them that others matter.

[Read my entire post on empathy: ‘The importance of teaching children empathy’]

Along with empathy, justice is also an important value to teach our children. Children need to learn that life is not fair and that they cannot always have things their way. I want my children to learn that with any action they do, there is always some kind of reaction. This can be good or bad. I have always told my children that they can choose their actions, but they do not get to choose their consequences. Unfortunately, I see more people trying to avoid responsibility for their actions and unwilling to abide by the consequences. Children that can learn to accept the consequences of their behavior and to make amends for their actions are more likely to be adults who are leaders rather than followers.

Respect is another value that is lacking in society today and one of the most important ones for them to learn. By teaching your children to have respect for authority, you are not only doing yourself a favor but the also the world. Too many children have no respect for their parents, teachers, or even themselves. I’ve seen children that have hit, spit and even kicked their parents and teachers because they didn’t get what they wanted. A lack of respect in a child leads to an adult who lacks respect. It’s a rude world out there, and a little respect for others will make the world a better place.

These six values are far from a complete list of values children need to learn. Values are not old fashioned or something that is not needed today. In contrast, values are vital to society and something that every child desperately needs to learn. If we as parents truly love our children, we will not only instill in them the values they need to succeed in life but will also be an example that they can emulate.

Crystal Schwalger has loved writing ever since she could remember. Her love of learning led her to Dixie State University where she graduated with a degree in English and Communications. She is passionate about writing and believes that you should never give up on your dreams. She is happiest when she is at home enjoying her backyard green spaces with her family. She currently lives in Washington Utah with her husband, her children, and her dog Kali.

Previous articleCARTOON: 'Texas Jail Death' by Clay Jones
Next articleDuck Creek Days on Cedar Mountain: Mountain air and a family fair
Jonathan Decker is a licensed family therapist and clinical director of Your Family Expert. His wife Alicia is the CEO. He offers online relationship courses for couples and families worldwide, along with in-person and online counseling for persons in the state of Utah. He is also a husband, father, author, actor, television personality, and motivational speaker. For daily guidance from Jonathan, join his Facebook group Marriage and Family Tips that Work.