Raising children who share your values

2012-10-18 00:00

WHEN we look around and see a culture developing that is focused on spending days at the malls, slothing in front of the television, playing play station and valuing media opinion over reason, and when we see a lack of enthusiasm for life seeping in, we need to stop and ask ourselves: where does this come from?

The answer is simple. Us, the adults, the big people. If one were to consider a new baby growing up in a family that values sport, the chances are that their child will be very into sport. A family valuing the outdoors will have children who tend to be drawn towards nature, and the family that is drawn to the arts will have children who are often naturally artistic.

Yes, genetics do play a huge role here, as well as natural interest. But the reality is that our home life sets our child’s affections.

The way we dress and the clothing we deem acceptable —  by what we purchase for our children — will model to our children what they should be wearing. The language we use and the vocabulary we throw at our children creates within them an understanding of how language works and what vocabulary we use in different situations. The television programmes we watch, and allow our children to watch, displays to them what sort of programmes are acceptable for them to view. When we come home from work and value time playing soccer together, or sitting down to our soapies, we are once again modelling a lifestyle that is acceptable. So the list continues into every aspect of our day and lifestyle.

We don’t only set our children’s affections by what we model, but also by what we purchase for them, the places we allow them to go, the friends we allow them to have and by the comments we do not make. When we allow our children to do things, go places, wear certain clothes and hang out with friends of whom we do not approve, and we say nothing, we are in effect condoning these things.

We do, however, in all these things, need to remember that it is our children’s hearts we are desiring to reach. We cannot therefore simply jump in and start pulling apart their friendships, and be disapproving of their lifestyle and dress code. This will be perceived to be a direct attack on them and they will recoil further. Instead, we need to discuss these issues with them, and work through it as a team.

Easier yet, is to set their affections high from birth. If, while our child is still a baby, we choose as a family what movies, language, dress code, behaviour and lifestyle will be acceptable within our home, then our child’s affections should naturally be drawn toward those.

It is, however, important that we walk our talk so that our children have natural role models to follow. Believe it or not, they do want to be like us and to please us.

 

• Joanne Madgwick is a parenting and educational consultant. Find out more about her at www.susa parentcentre

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