Build your family brand
Do your children know what values you stand for?
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What is your moral centre and why? Values refer to our principles or standards, which are unique to each family. We all have our own blueprint (Brand You) and ‘family print’ (Brand Family), and both of these are influenced by our values.

Today diversity surrounds us; it is the new status quo. As such, we have to respond to it and make some choices. To learn to be discerning, children need an internalised set of values against which to measure other value offerings in life. If we fail to assist our children to develop values, they may just adopt the values of the most attractive brands on offer. Now that’s a scary thought!

As adults, and particularly as parents, we need to consider the values we have retained from our own upbringing and decide whether these are still applicable to the family we are creating today in the context of the 21st century.
How to instill values and attitudes

1. Role modelling
  • Children do as you do, not as you say.
  • They need to see you in action.
  • If children respect you and feel safe, they are more likely to buy in to your values. For today’s children respect is not a given – we have to earn their respect.

2. Teachable moments
    This refers to those moments that just ‘happen’, which provide a good opportunity for explanation or teaching because your child asks a question, because you reflect what is going on verbally, or by demonstration through your actions or response to a situation. For example:
  • A motorist has broken down. You may stop to help if you feel this would not be a threat to your physical well-being, or you may call the emergency services for assistance. You are demonstrating kindness, helpfulness and compassion.
  • A friend has just had a baby or is ill and you deliver a meal to her home to provide some relief from everyday responsibilities. This shows thoughtfulness, kindness and compassion.
  • You help out in the school library with the covering of books. This shows your support for your child’s school and demonstrates helpfulness.
  • You contribute to various charities on a monthly basis as well as give toys to orphanages at the end of each year. This demonstrates generosity, kindness and compassion.
  • You submit your tax return each year. This demonstrates integrity, honesty and responsibility.
  • Your children clean the car with you and wash their bicycles. They learn to value and respect property.

3. Conversation
  • Children overhear adult conversations all the time about people and events. You convey your values about things through what they hear. You are often unaware of what they have heard.
  • By answering your children’s questions, or helping them to find the answers for themselves, you convey values and attitudes.
  • Become a good listener. We were born with two ears and one tongue, thus we should listen twice as much as we speak. It shows our children that we value their input and what they say.
  • Today children are exposed to many inappropriate things from an early age. Be prepared to have discus­sions about them. This is an easy way to convey your values, or to develop a family approach to a variety of topics or situations.

4. Hang around time
Interaction occurs naturally among family members around the house doing normal family things such as gardening, cooking, tidying up, watching TV, playing or doing homework. Children can often gain your attention in positive ways through the informal banter, by helping each other with tasks, or just by being there. This is time when values are passed on through osmosis.

Bear in mind that you are the role model. Your children will do as you do and not as you say. Choose caregivers well and co-parent consistently with your spouse, ex-spouse, step-parents and caregivers. Inconsistency causes value confusion.

Your window of opportunity to form strong relationships and really influence your children’s values is shrinking because they are growing up more quickly and entering adolescence earlier. Never give up. Values will make you children safer and more resilient in an ocean of constant change.

This is an extract from Future-proof Your Child (Penguin), available from at R140.00.

Do your children understand the concepts of morals and values? What are you doing to instill these things in them?

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