How To Talk About Values to Your Kids

Talking About Values, p. 2

HONESTY

Sticky Situation: You discover an action figure in the pocket of your 6-year-old son's jeans that you know isn't his. He claims he found it. You're suspicious but let it go. Then you get a call from his friend's mom, who diplomatically asks whether your son mistakenly took the toy home from his afternoon playdate.

Wise Words: By this age, your son knows very well that taking a toy is wrong. Be direct.

  • "I just got a call from Johnny's mother. She said one of his toys is missing. It sounds as if you might have taken it without asking. What do you think? It's time for you to tell me the truth."
  • If your child still denies it, be stern: 'Stealing hurts people. Your friend feels bad. You probably feel bad too, knowing this toy doesn't belong to you. And lying about what you've done makes it even worse." In both instances, insist that your son return the toy as soon as possible. -- Sal Severe, Ph.D., author of How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too!

RESPECT

Sticky Situation: You drop in on your 7-year-old daughter's Sunday-school class and catch her playing with a yo-yo, deliberately ignoring the teacher.

Wise Words: When class is over, pull her aside and state the rule: no toys in Sunday school ever. Then encourage a deeper understanding of respect with a discussion.

  • "Paying attention is an important way to show respect. What are some other ways you can let your teacher know you respect her?"
  • If your child is quick to comprehend her mistake, reinforce her understanding with: 'That's the kind of thinking I like to hear! It sounds as if you understand what respect is." -- Arthur Dobrin, Ph.D., author of Teaching Right From Wrong: 40 Things You Can Do to Raise a Moral Child

GENEROSITY

Sticky Situation: After dinner, your 5-year-old brings out his bag of Halloween candy, and you ask nicely for one of your favorites. He hugs the bag to his chest and says, "No way."

Wise Words: Five-year-olds are not particularly good at sharing, especially candy! In this case, speak from your own experience.

  • "You know, when I don't want to share with somebody else, I end up feeling really bad. When I do share, I feel good because I know I've made the other person happy. Do you want to try it, and see whether it makes you feel happy too?"
  • Or simply suggest a compromise: "Why don't you spread out your candy? If you don't want me to have that particular piece, there's probably another one you can give me." -- Sal Severe

KINDNESS

Sticky Situation: You overhear your 6-year-old daughter and a group of her friends saying unkind things about a classmate.

Wise Words: This behavior is always hurtful, and you have an obligation to intervene in a direct way but without embarrassing your child. Walk right into the group, acknowledge that you overheard their conversation, and ask the girls one of these open-ended questions.

  • "You've probably all heard the golden rule: 'Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.' What do you think it means?"
  • Or simply: "How does it feel when someone in your class says something mean about you?" -- Martha Straus

Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the November 2003 issue of Parents magazine.

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