Individual values shape family values. Family values shape community values. Community values shape cultural values. And cultural values shape the character of a nation. Australia is not the safe place it was a generation or two ago. Due to changes in cultural cohesion, community involvement and family structure; what it means to be Australian is shifting and in the process we are losing focus on our shared values. In short, we are no longer able to articulate what it means to be Australian.
Because values provide the foundational core of culture, The Australia Government is doing everything they can to help us find ourselves. This is why schools have values statements, buddy systems and peer mentoring for the students and programs like Real Schools for teachers and staff. It’s also why schools have chaplains, mentors, councillors and well-being officers.
US President Theodore Roosevelt said, “To educate a person in mind and not morals is to educate a menace to society.” A safe Australia is a values-centred Australia. We know this! Not only do values keep us safe, they play a key role in our happiness, wellbeing and success. But, where do they come from? How do we develop values?
Values are caught not taught. We develop our values by watching and participating with other people. Values transfer from one person to another through relational pathways. The stronger the relationship, the more likely we will embody the values lived out by the other person. For most children, parents are their primary relationships and thus the strongest source for their values. Significant family members are also relational values givers. Those we value most provide most of our values.
As a parent, if we want to raise children with holistic healthy values, we need to know our core values and live by them. To do this, we need to take our own values seriously. Sit down and make a list. What are my core values? Why do I have these values? How do I live by these values and how will I ensure I live by them in the future?
A list of commonly held values is a good place to start. Values specialist Michael Gurian suggests ten moral competencies all humans need: decency, fairness, empathy, self-sacrifice, responsibility, loyalty, duty, service, honesty and honour. Happiness guru Martin Seligman adds humility, self-control, love of learning, industriousness, leadership, caution and playfulness. Parenting experts Linda and Richard Eyre continue the list with courage, peaceability, self-reliance, dependability, respect, love, unselfishness and mercy.
An honest personal values list will have just a handful of values. Although more confronting, reverse engineering your list will give you the most honest results. Instead of picking your values from a list; look at the actions, activities and communities in which you are regularly involved. Why are you involved in these things? Your core-values will likely be at the heart of the reasons why you dedicate time and energy to these things.
Once you’ve generated your list, talk about it. Notice when one of your values is lived-out by one of your children and tell them what you’ve seen in them. Put a name to the actions you want to see. Celebrate your values in action!
One by one, both you and your child will become all you hope to be. And Australia will be better for it!
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