Values are Beliefs
Values are the beliefs both conscious and unconscious that we consider important for ourselves. Because our values are beliefs they are subjective personal opinions, not facts. However because we tend to treat beliefs as generalisations, we can get caught up in thinking that what we value is universally accepted by others, that it is a factual objective truth, which is far from reality.
Values are our guiding principles that inform what we do, say, think and feel. They are an important part of parenting since they influence our behaviours, attitudes, our decisions and relationships. They are foundational to how we role-model and communicate with our kids who in turn learn to espouse our values (and therefore our behaviour) from an early age.
Values Can Be Situational
Values can be situational, meaning that what one person values may not be what another person values given the same situation. For example when choosing a school for your child, a spouse who values academic success will look for those qualities in a school, while another spouse who values social connection will want to know if the school is a cultural fit first and foremost.
Conflicting values when occurring situationally can have parents experiencing stress, tension and confusion, and send mixed messages to kids. Rather than taking a black and white perspective on our values and remembering that our values are personal and subjective, not fact; choosing to take an inclusive ‘both and’ approach can be useful.
While some values stand the test of time, others change. Values often change with age, our needs, experience and developmental stage in life. What we value in our children in their informative years can differ to what we value in their teen years. Likewise our children’s values also change and evolve over time.
Forcing our values onto our children can backfire. In teen years, where a budding independence from family values and a preference to adopt peer values evolves, parents can feel rejected. Holding the space for children to explore and develop their own values regardless of age, as well as role-modelling our own values, empowers children to align themselves with what is uniquely important to them as well as learning to espouse parental values.
Children who have not been empowered in this way or not been able to voice alternate views may oppose their parents values more decisively as a way of expressing their independence. Ultimately once adolescence hits and the teen years emerge, our voice of influence becomes subtle as our children seek to determine their own value system. Guidance and empowerment on developing values in their early years gives kids the confidence, resilience and integrity to ‘walk their talk’ with their values later on.
Values Both Serve and Dis-Serve
Values can be of help and of hindrance. Values provide us with guidance and clarity, making us more effective communicators and influencers with our children.
When we identify personally with our values we ‘become our values’ rather than ‘having values’. Coming from this perspective can have us feeling personally attacked when someone disagrees with our values or holds opposing or different values. We become tunnel-visioned into believing that our values are factual and the whole truth. We deny ourselves alternative perspectives and consequently limit opportunities for ourselves and our children to grow and learn.
We Are Both Aware and Unaware Of Our Values
We are both consciously and unconsciously values-driven. Most of our values are not consciously chosen. They are deeply embedded beliefs gifted to us in early childhood to help us fit into society and culture as we grow up. When young, we accept these values without question.
Values drive our behaviour whether or not we have an awareness of them. The more aware we are of our values, the more intentional we are in communicating them and the more our children are guided by and learn from them. Values we hold but are unaware of, we are less likely to espouse. When we adopt values with the purpose to be seen by others a certain way, rather than to reflect who we are, our values are less likely to support us in times of stress, and more likely to be experienced as incongruent behaviour.
Values Can Be Learned From Infancy
Did you know that infants learn to understand words before they speak them? From infancy our children learn family values through their constant interactions with us, how we respond to them through our speech, tonality and actions. It is never too early to consciously role-model and communicate values to our children. The values our children learn to espouse in their informative years sets the platform for how they live their lives