Great parenting requires a great foundation. Being intentional and consistent in your parenting choices takes more grit than you can imagine if you don’t have children, and more than we can muster some days for those of us who have kids! It also takes a fair amount of grace—for your children and for yourself.
A component of consistent parenting is developing the core values by which you will raise your family.
Whether you are aware of it or not, most of us have already developed core values and practice them. Your experiences as a child, your parents (or lack thereof), the places you’ve lived, your education, friends, and beliefs have all influenced your core values. Thankfully, they are not always set in stone, so it is possible to change when needed. Sometimes you don’t need to change, but to just put into practice what you already know.
Let’s say you go to the theater with your kids— not a cheap outing! You realize you could save some money on ticket prices by saying your son is three years old when he is really four. After all, the clerk selling you the ticket isn’t going to ask for a birth certificate! But, while saving money is usually a good thing, you have a pre-determined core value of honesty, so you gulp a little and shell out the money you actually owe for the ticket. Your conscience is clear and your children didn’t hear you tell a lie. It’s a simplistic example, but imagine if you had chosen to lie with your kids listening. What would that moment have communicated to them?
Other values may include respect, generosity, kindness, perseverance, etc. As parents, it is our job to model these traits in front of our kids, to live them out in everyday life. If I have chosen to adopt respect as a value, then my kids will see me respect my husband, people in authority, and even the kids themselves. If I have not chosen respect as a value, then the kids will hear and see me treat people poorly, gossip, and be rude to others.
The time to determine your core values is now.
Even if you’re not a parent. Even if you’re not married. Think on them often and be aware of opportunities in which you can practice them. Let them become ingrained in who you are so that they become second nature. I was raised to show respect by saying “ma’am” and “sir” to adults and authority figures. To this day, I still say that to older people and those in authority, and, quite frankly, cringe when younger people answer me with a “yeah” or “sure” or anything other than at least a simple “yes” or “no.” Why? Because I was raised with a core value of respect that became a part of my DNA. By the way, Mike and I raised our daughters to offer the same respect, and I can’t tell you how many times they have been complimented and were reciprocated with respect because they obviously cared enough to simply be respectful. It works!
Some families take the time to sit down together and write out their core values.
I think that is a great idea! It sets the clear expectation for everyone and gives a basis for accountability. Even toddlers and preschoolers can be taught the basics of your values. More importantly, they will watch you as their example. While little ones may not understand fully, older children are definitely looking for consistency in your lifestyle and choices. For example, one of our family values is giving. Since Mike and I determined together that this is a value, we will almost always come to a consensus on charitable giving. We may have to talk through the amount, but the act of giving as a practice within our family has already been decided, so there is no conflict. Consequently, our daughters have adopted giving as a core value, and we couldn’t be happier about that!
It’s much easier to be consistent when you have already determined that there are some areas in life in which you will not compromise. Those core values are the foundation of your parenting. Build them early on, with great thought and intentionality, and with courage. Will they solve all of your parenting woes? No, but they will guide you as your family navigates life together.
You’ll also like Why I Don’t Have Just One Parenting Style, Mom’s Imperfect Perfection, 5 Tips for Mending Fences in Your Relationships, and How to Lead Yourself Well and Others Better (and Why)