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Teaching your kids about family values

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Raising good kids

You want your children to grow up with a solid, grounded sense of right and wrong. But how do you convey your family values to your children?

family having dinner

Family values. It's not just the name of a Limp Bizkit tour circa 1998. Does that date me?! Family values are the moral values that you want to instill in your children. Traditional family values give kids a sense of wrong and right, a grounding.

Teaching family values is a parent's job, but unlike math or reading, it's not something that you can teach with flash cards and workbooks. On the contrary, values are something that parents model, says Elizabeth Berger, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of the parenting book Raising Kids with Character. "Parents convey who they are. They really don't make conscious decisions about what they "teach" their children," says Berger.

Patricia Walters-Fischer and her husband practice modeling the behavior they want their kids to mirror. "Some might say 'well duh' about leading by example, but it's the little things, everyday things that make it easier to instill values. Big things such as teaching respect of others and yourself, being proud of your family and yourself, treating others as you would like to be treated, and a constant dialogue with our children so they are more willing to come to us for concerns or problems," explains Walter-Fischer.

What are you conveying?

Every parent wants to raise their children to have good moral values, but how can you know what you are passing to your kids?

Family values are passed along via a wealth of things the child sees: a parent's attitude, work ethic and relationships. "Children want to be like the grown-ups who love them. They want to wear Mommy's eye-glasses and Daddy's shoes. They copy the posture of character qualities that the parent embodies every moment in living -- courage, self-discipline, empathy and joy," says Berger

Do family values need explaining?

Family values don't really need to be explained, Berger says. "Their own attitudes and actions are loud and clear. This is what children observe in the important people around them and what they want to be like when they are 'big,'" says Berger.

When are you teaching family values?

Family values are taught all day, every day. "Everything that happens all day long are the vehicles of the parent's love and careful devotion to the child. ... The element of life commitment is what counts in giving the child a sense of self-worth. The love that the parent holds for the child is the child's first, and most important, family value," says Berger.

Be present

Most importantly, to teach your children family values, you must be present with them. "If you want to ensure family values in your children, create a warm environment and solid routine. Include eating dinner together as much as possible even if it means rearranging your family's dinner schedule for the evening," says Laura J. Wellington, CEO of The Giddy Gander Company. "It may be hard to do but it will allow your children to spend time with you discussing their day which will provide you with an immediate opportunity to respond and review your family values as they pertain to your children's lives in the absolute present tense of the word."

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