With a pop culture obsessed with negative role models like Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, where do we find people who exhibit core values? We can start with ourselves.
“It’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do, how you live, and the examples you show,” suggests mom Gwen McConnell of St. David’s, PA. Gwen and husband John have emphasized core values like charity with all four of their children. In high school their oldest son rode his bike 75 miles to Avalon. He has grown that ride into into an educational fundraiser that recently earned $20,000.
Carole Gold, a Medford, NJ mom and author, offers a list of 10 important values: honesty, self-reliance, personal responsibility, fearlessness, forgiveness, compassion, trust, humility, perseverance and authenticity. “Honesty is the most important,” she says. “Honesty and integrity have to be the basis for all of our relationships.”
Teach Through Example
“Regardless of what we say, children give much more weight to what we do,” says Gold. “Values must be something that you live, not just something that you speak.”
The McConnells emphasize the importance of family. When John travelled extensively for work, he made sure to be home for as many of his kids’ important moments as possible. If he couldn’t be there, “he would make it a priority to talk to them on the phone,” recalls Gwen.
She believes role models can be found, sometimes within our family. “John’s dad was the most humble and understated person who did all kinds of volunteer work and was one of the best examples for my kids.”
Leslie Slate, a Wilmington, DE mother of four, says, “We focus more on everyday people and how we all can be heroes.”
When children make mistakes and cross boundaries you set, it’s important to have open communication. When one of Slate’s daughters came home with a D on her interim report card, a conversation revealed that she hadn’t completed a project because she found the subject boring.
“I reminded her that she didn’t hurt anybody but herself and it was really disrespectful to the teacher,” says Slate, who believes respect is a core value. “She ended up writing a letter of apology to the teacher” and brought her grade back up to a B.
When kids make a mistake, Gold urges parents to say, “I love you and I find the behavior unacceptable. Then show them that their behavior is a choice they made and they can choose better.”
Terri Akman is a South Jersey mom and freelance writer.