Society often sends the message, "If it feels good, do it!" But the experts say that in healthy families, the adults don't leave children on their own to decide their values. Instead, parents in healthy families send clear messages to children about what is right and wrong.
The most secure children live in homes where they know what is expected. And children make better decisions when they know that they must live with the consequences of their poor choices.
Different families have different ideas of what rules for living are right for them. The important thing is that within each family, members share important values and pass them along to the children. Perhaps today is a good time to look at how your family is sharing values. You might want to try some of these activities:
1) Take a parenting class to get some ideas on how to better guide children's behavior.
2) Choose a family service project to support a cause everyone in the family feels is important.
3) Make a list of rules in your family and create a list of values the rules represent. For example, you may have a rule that homework comes before play. The value could be "Education is important." A discussion about the "whys" behind the rules helps children understand your family's values.
4) Hold a family awards night to present awards for things family members have done right that week. Johnny could get an award for being responsible when he returned a borrowed toy. Mom might receive an award for honesty when she told the store clerk she had been given too much change. This fun activity challenges everyone to act on what they believe.
Source: Traits of a Healthy Family, by Dolores Curran, 1988, pp. 209-225.