How can I help my children define their values?

Lynne Kenney
Time for the colorful markers, crayons and paper, and inviting the children to a session of fun brainstorming and drawing. Initially, children may not feel they can identify their values as values, but it may surprise you that children as young as 24 months can tell you what matters to them and what matters to you. Begin by talking with your children.

Share with them what you mean when you talk of values, and give them some examples of things you value. Ask them what kinds of thing they value. Do they value their friends? Their dog? How about some feelings or experiences that they value? Fairness? Playing at the park?

Here are some other questions to help guide your conversation with your child, age 3 to 8 (for your youngest children, you may need to adjust the wording). Pictures are a great way to involve your little ones. You can cut out pictures from magazines that represent what matters most to them.

1. What kind of person do you want to be?
2. What kinds of things do you notice about other people?
3. Does getting good grades matter to you?
4. Does helping others matter to you?
5. Do you like to be a leader or are you more comfortable following along?
6. Does making a mark in the world matter to you?
7. Are there charities or causes that matter to you?
8. Does being a good athlete matter to you?
9. How do our actions reflect our values?
10. Are there times when the things we do don’t match our values? When? Why?

Expand the conversation and show you both understand and care about your child’s perspective. Help guide your children with positive affirmations: “So, having a say is important to you” or “Doing what you enjoy is important to you.”  Now transform your children’s views into value statements: “I am learning from you that…”

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