As parents, one of our goals is that our children carry on our values and become responsible, compassionate adults. However, teaching values somehow seems more complicated than teaching our little ones how to tie their shoes or how to count. It involves not only a transfer of information and skills but of sentiments, character and judgement. There are some simple ways to incorporate teaching values into your daily life with your child.
These ideas are drawn from the teachings of the Montessori method, the same method upon which Nell is based. Maria Montessori, founder of the method, believed that children should receive a complete education including formation of character. Through lessons in grace and courtesy, Montessori believed children could grow up to be peacemakers in their families and in the world. Below are some of our suggestions for teaching values to your child:
The first and most important way to transmit values to our children is through our example. Children, especially the youngest, are always watching their parents to learn how to handle any number of situations. And then, they copy. So, try to notice the way you transmit your feelings and values in your everyday actions. For example, when you’re angry, be sure that you’re expressing your feelings in a way that you would also like to see your children do.
2. Talk About It
You can also make a point to talk about values and how to live them out. Either do this one-on-one with your child or enjoy a family discussion. There are many topics to include and ways of discussing them. Some ideas are:
- Showing gratefulness (saying thank you)
- Manners (saying thank you, please, excuse me, etc.)
- Showing respect for others (appreciating different cultures, being quiet when others are talking)
- Generosity (sharing with others)
You can make a point to spend some time talking about these ideas with your child. For example, share a story or a book about the topic. Then ask for your child’s ideas for how to express the value. Also make sure to follow up by practicing or role-playing. To practice saying “thank you,” pass an object back and forth and say “Please can I have it?” and “Thank you!” each time the object is passed. This sort of activity is ideal for young children who are still acquiring the language associated with gratitude. For older children, you may consider making a “thank you” card.
3. Practice Together
The opportunity to put lessons into practice in real life is a great way to instill values and create lasting memories. To practice generosity, consider making a meal for a neighbor or elderly person and taking it to their house. Or, to practice manners, you could enjoy a formal meal together in your home. Beforehand, tell your child you’re going to have a very special meal in order to practice using proper table manners. Use special plates and a fancy tablecloth. Have your children dress up, to make the occasion feel important. Then, remember to use the table manners you’ve practiced during the meal. In order to practice respect, children can make posters, short videos or create a play that demonstrate how to show respect for others.