As I was thinking through this post, I wondered whether talking about values wasn’t terribly old fashioned. I’m not at all sure if values are still a popular subject right now. However, I feel that knowing your values is terrible important as well, so I’m going to talk about them anyway. And from a parenting perspective at that.
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Has it ever happened to you that it was near the end of the day and you’re tired? And the kids are tired? Everybody is having a cold and on top of that, you are having a headache as well? All of you are at the bottom of the stairs, because it’s bed-time, and the kids don’t seem to be moving? So, you do what every good parent does: you explain it’s time to go to bed, mention some consequence for not listening and count to three. The kids still appear to be dawdling at the bottom of the stairs.
I know what’s that like, to have no energy of any kind left, no strength of will, just wanting to get the day over with. There’s always an easy way out with kids. You can just let the matter go, or promise them a snack. There’s always a way to bribe them. And though I think there’s a time and place for bribes (Saturday morning’s at the hair dresser’s being one of them), I also think we should be careful in using them.
With kids, as with many things, short-term thinking will give you long-term problems.
This is why your parenting values matter
This is why it’s important to have your parenting values in place and at the front of your mind. Having your values front and center makes live, spur of the moment decisions easier. It also makes it easier to stick to those decisions.
If you’re at the bottom of those stairs, with zero energy, and you don’t stick to your maxim, then what is going to make your kids go to bed without too much fuss tomorrow?
We all know that no is no and rules are rules. We all know that when we say something, we should follow through. That it’s important to be consistent. But boy is that difficult sometimes!
Knowing what your parenting values are will help you with this.
Space and Balance through Parenting Values
Ask yourself, do you know what you base your decision on in everyday life? Is it a spur of the moment thing? Are you sometimes not sure if you are making the right decision? Should there be a nightlight? Should my kid play over at Johnny’s? How much candy should they have? It’s possible to give yourself more guidance in everyday parenting decisions, where you are not sure, you can let your parenting values be your guide.
This creates more balance and space, because it makes decisions easier and more consistent as well as more confident in your parenting if you know your actions are backed by your values. You can base your decisions and actions on what you believe in. This will give you the strength to follow through, even when you are tired, have a cold and suffer from a headache.
What are parenting values and why are they important?
So glad you asked 🙂 Your parenting values are the kind of things you want to pass on to your child. They are what describes what kind of person you want your child to become. Do you want your child to become a loyal kind of person? Do you think that being adventurous is important? You can see why these values are important. If you want your child to be a person of integrity, and you catch is lying, you may decide to not just let it go with a time-out, but to make time to sit down and talk about what it means to lie. If your child has made a complete mess of the bathroom with the toilet paper, but you value creativity very highly, the consequences you decide on may be different.
Parenting Values make you:
- a consistent parent
- a calmer, surer parent
- send the message you want
- focus on the right stuff
Knowing what your parenting values are can help you make decisions in every day events. Should your children have this toy? Can they stay up later? How are you disciplining them? Having a clear view of your values as a parent means you have a solid basis to make decisions on and gives you the mental strength to stick to these decisions. The great things about this approach, is that you values are with you in all situations. Things like love and integrity can speak to your heart and mind in all situation. At home when you’re tired, or in the supermarket when you’re stressed. Acting based on your parenting values also means that you are always acting from your heart and your beliefs.
When I was little, I didn’t play much with baby dolls. And when I was a teenager, I kept breaking my mothers heart by insisting I’d never have children. So it’s rather ironic that I’m so passionate about the topic of mothering so much now. Even in my early twenties I used to say that someday I’d be a mother, just not now. Well, at some point time did catch up with me. Once I held my infant son in my arms, I realised I had no idea what to do. And I hate not knowing what to do. I remember those nights, feeding him in a quiet, dark house, completely freaking out. How on earth does one raise a child? What had I gotten myself into?
A tactic was need, a sense of direction. I needed to decide what I wanted to give my child in rearing him. I felt that besides loving him to pieces, I needed to prepare him for having a good life of his own. But you can’t prepare a child for every possible situation it might encounter. You have to give it the tools to handle those situations themselves. The only way I could think of doing that over the long term, was by steering by values. I would gift him the values I believed would support his happiness later on.
Give yourself and your child a roadmap
When my oldest son needs to learn something about one of the values important to me, for instance respect for others, I make sure I talk to him about why this is important and what his behavior means exactly. I may do it at different moments so the message gets repeated.
Take stock of you values as a parent. What do you want to give to your children? Stability? Healthy living? Loving? Caring? Compassion? Creativity? It may help to do a value exercise with not yourself but the upbringing of your child in mind. Review every so often to see if your values are still the same. Keep your top values where you see them often. Having your most important values at the top of your mind means you will act on them even when your not at your best (I know a lot of those moments, when I’m not at my best).
Some examples where parenting values matter
For instance, one of my values is regularity. I believe that regularity helps kids (why?). But when I get home in the evening, and I’m tired, it’s sometimes difficult to follow through on for instance bed-time. Knowing what my values are makes me believe that although none of us like it, I’m doing the right thing. And I somehow find the strength to do it anyway.
Same if one of the kids decides to lie down in the middle of the supermarket because they want a certain snack and I’ve said no. I don’t really want a scene. But I’ve already said no. And no is no, and it’s something I believe in. So again, I follow through because I believe.
A third example, one of the children’s had a nightmare and has woken up. Normally, they should stay in bed, but love-care-compassion are very high on my value list. So I soften my heart, and let them lie with us in the big bed for a while. Or I take them downstairs until they’ve calmed down and then try to let them sleep again.
Sort your parenting values
Discovering your parenting values as not as difficult as it might seem. Hop onto Google, and search for list of values and use that as your basis. Add any values you feel are missing. Write them on a piece of paper, leaving some space. Cut out all the values so that you have each one of them on an individual strip of paper. Then you go through the following 3 steps:
- Go through the stack of values and decide whether this value is important. Make three stacks with Yes, important. No, not important and Maybe important. Try not to overthink, but sort by gut feeling / first thought.
- Review all three stacks. If you feel a value is in the wrong stack, move it.
- Go to the stack with Yes, important. Odds are there are more than 10 values in that stack. You can’t live up to 50 values at all times, so we’re going to prioritize them. Put the first value on the table. Then look at the next value in the stack. Is this more important than the previous value? Then put this second value above the first one. Is it less important? Then put it below the first one. Go the next strip of paper. Is it more important than the value at the top? Yes, but it above this value. No? Go to the second value in the row on the table. Is it more important than this one? Yes, then put the new value in between the previous ones. If not, put the value lower. Repeat for all values.
Take your top 10 parenting values & keep those in mind
Now that you have your top 10 figured out, write them down and put them where you’ll see them regularly. It may also help to have a copy in your diary if you happen to carry one with you. Review your values every so often to see if any of them have shifted. This is perfectly fine, after all, you grow and change as a person and all we can do is act to the best of our abilities.
The important thing is only that you know what your parenting values are, so that at all times you know which course of action to take.