Every parent wants his or her child to be an epitome of values. Be it honesty, generosity, love, compassion, patience, humility or self-discipline – the list is long. We all want our children to imbibe these qualities to become good human beings and responsible citizens of society.
Additionally, in today’s world, values such as concern for the environment, inter-faith harmony, caring for the aged, gender equality and inclusivity, have gained importance.
The foundations of a value system are established by parents, grandparents and other close relatives. Learning to be neat and tidy, greeting elders with respect, being punctual and curbing aggression are some of the very initial learnings in value education. At school, values like team spirit, fair play and sincerity towards work, come to the forefront. Later, when the child begins to question certain values during his adolescence, old values are judged and new values are formed.
Leading by example
It is said that children close their ears to advice and open their eyes to example! Parents have to inculcate values in their children not by preaching but by practising.
US-based banker Bhaskar Dole, father of two little girls, says, “Children will be quick to pick up any disconnect between what parents say and what they do. For example, if children see their parents working hard, being disciplined and treating others with respect, then these values will become ingrained in them even without parents talking to them about it.”
“My parents didn’t lecture us on the importance of working hard and giving our best to everything we did. That's how they lived their own lives, but it subconsciously rubbed off on my brother and me,” he adds.
Teaching family values
Manjari Agarwal, mother of two boys and former teacher says, “Both parents need to be on the same page and support the same values. Even if one parent does not quite agree with the way the other is handling the children, he or she should not question them in front of the kids. Otherwise, children get confused or they take advantage of the situation.”
She believes that it is important for children to be connected to grandparents, from whom they can learn the value of simple living. Her sons Ananth and Akshat, spend a month with their grandparents in Lucknow each year and do not complain for instance, about not having air-conditioning, which they are used to having at home.
Instilling discipline, faith and integrity
Architect Bharti Sahay is a hands-on mother and a strict one at that. She believes in old-fashioned values and has tried to inculcate these in her children. “I am a very thrifty person and would rather save than spend. I tell my daughters Kavya and Shabnam to dispose of the old newspapers every month in the recycle mart and keep the money. They divide it between themselves and put it in the bank. This way they understand the value of money,” she explains. Today, with rampant materialism and consumerism, this value assumes importance.
Bharti is also very forthright, has never given a bribe, and has deep faith in God. She hopes that her daughters will imbibe this integrity and faith. "Moms should be like the voice of conscience preventing children from going astray later in life," she says. But the value she has tried hardest to pass on is to stay focused and be disciplined. "I tell my girls to manage their time well, to make a list of things to do and to complete their tasks in a determined manner," she adds.
Imparting traditional values
Parna Mukherjee, a lawyer and mother of eight-year-old Upasana, explains that though some customs may seem outdated, they still have value and should be imparted to children.
Parna insists that Upasana greets elders by touching their feet. Touching an older person’s feet is not only a mark of respect, but an acknowledgement of the wisdom/experience of the older person. In turn, the older person blesses the younger one with an abundance of wisdom and prosperity. “There is always a greater receptivity and engagement in the meeting that follows. I can only hope that as she grows older, she’ll stick to this practice,” Parna says.
A child in third standard who accidently puts her classmate’s notebook in her bag, may not understand how this affects the other child. Says S Dinakar, a parent caught in such a situation, “I had to explain to my daughter Sudha, how her classmate is likely to get scolded at home for losing the book and her friend may fare poorly in the test if she cannot study. We immediately informed her classmate about the mixup and returned the book.” Sudha learnt to put herself in the other person’s shoes and learnt to acknowledge the implications of her actions.