Thoughtful parents put a great deal of effort into instilling their own values, attitudes and a solid moral framework for their children to take into young adulthood. But how do parents know they are really “getting through” and that their children will embrace similar values, attitudes and an ethical frame of reference to pass on to their own children?
Children who can easily articulate the values that belong to the family and who have had these values reinforced through action over words tend to fare better in living out these values as they leave home and go out into a world full of competing choices.
Research suggests that children who are taught age appropriate self-determination (as defined by Deci and Ryan as supporting one’s natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways) are better equipped to understand why a family has certain attitudes toward family attitudes and values around justice, family loyalty and respect, the role of the individual in community, social, school and work life, health and wellness goals, spiritual or religious affiliation and other values the family has honored over generations.
Likewise, teaching your child to think critically can strongly reinforce similar values in him or her. As the youngster becomes more independent in the world, this tool will serve them well.
Engaging with your child not just about what your values are, but why you find them important and the natural consequences of violating them, improves adoption of the values you think your child will need to carry into adult life.
Piaget and developmental psychology expects that children are typically unable to perform functional critical thinking before around the age of eleven. Fully independent reasoning, judgment and prudence are exhibited around 25 to 30 years of age. Nonetheless, it is never too early to explain why you have rules, values and attitudes, and to explore with your child a way to manifest those values.
Both self-determination and critical thinking are building blocks toward helping to establish your child’s desire to not only embrace the values you find important but to act upon their own value system to pass on to the next generation. ###
Daniel Trussell, Ph.D., MBA, LPC, NCC, CPCS is author of The How Families Flourish Workbook and How Families Flourish. He is a certified Professional Counselor supervisor and conducts training for both professionals and families in incorporating the findings from positive psychology into daily life. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. [website]