Do you have a family playbook – a declaration of the values, attitudes and behaviors you want to instill in your children? Chances are you have well-formulated ideas about the values you hope your child will embrace, the attitudes with which they will approach life’s challenges, and the behaviors your child will exhibit at home, school and in the community.
But let’s try an experiment to test how well you convey these values, attitudes and behavioral expectations to your child. You might be surprised at the results!
Over the coming week ask your child these questions and explore their responses to see how they compare to your own ideas. If they are similar, you are conveying by your words and actions how you hope your child will grow into adulthood. If your child’s answers are different from yours, think about ways you can teach them to share your values, attitudes and behavioral expectations.
Attitudes about lawfulness and following rules.
- If you break a law or a family rule (like curfew or bedtime) should I punish you?
- Should there be exceptions?
- What do you see as fair punishment?
Attitudes about integrity, loyalty, respect and honesty.
- Do you think I respect your opinion?
- Do you think I am always honest with you and that I behave consistently?
- Do you feel safe in always being honest with me?
Attitudes about community and social life.
- How important is it to you that we spend regularly scheduled time together as a family?
- What activities with friends are more important than spending time with family?
- How does our family give back to the community?
Attitudes about work and school.
- When is it OK to defy a teacher’s authority?
- What activities could take precedent over completing homework?
- If you are doing poorly at school, how should we fix the problem?
Attitudes about household maintenance.
- Do you have a fair number of chores each week?
- Does everyone share equally in keeping our home in order?
- Do we do enough activities together to promote family vitality? If not what could we do more of?
Attitudes about exercise, diet and emotional health.
- Do you feel safe sharing your feelings with me about what’s on your mind?
- Do I show you in many ways, every day, how much I love and support you?
- Do we consistently eat nutritious meals and exercise together enough?
Attitudes about spirituality.
- Do I support your spiritual growth and/or religious affiliation?
- Do I practice what I preach?
- What are your views about God or a Higher Power?
Certainly, some of these are not easy questions to ask and you may not get the answers you want to hear. Nonetheless, the depth of understanding about your child’s thoughts, feelings and motivations are worth the effort. A caveat to the reader is to not judge the responses, to stay in a calm, focused and receptive state and to curiously investigate your child’s responses. Take in all the information and then create an action plan to help you and your child’s values, attitudes and behavioral expectations come into better alignment.
Daniel Trussell, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, CPCS is author of How Families Flourish: A Workbook for Family Optimization, a parenting guide using the constructs of applied positive psychology. To learn more about his program go to HowFamiliesFlourish.com
Photo credit: Keoni Cabral / Foter / CC BY