Parents pass on a number of physical traits to their children — hair and eye color, height, skin tone — the list goes on and on. However, it’s passing along your values to your children that needs to be worked on.
“Especially in a two parent household, you need to sit down with your partner to figure out how you’re going to be consistent with how you identify the values that are important to you and each other and how you’re going to carry them out,” said Tiffany Griffiths, a licensed clinical psychologist with practices in Clarks Summit, Dunmore and Exeter.
Parents should have this conversation before they have children.
“I think the very best thing we can do for our kids is that when there are differences, you can talk about them and you can show them that there is a way to be respectful and to be tolerant of differences, without attacking and without judging.”
Differences between parents can be many — from types of food to political to religious beliefs, however, Griffiths believes, with respect, it can be worked out.
While she was raised Catholic, her husband was raised Jewish and both made their religious decisions long ago.
“We’re raising our kids Jewish, but there are things that I feel are very important that I want to bring into my family, so we have those discussions,” she said.
“We read books to them about both faiths so that they see that I am respectful of my husband’s faith and he is respectful of my faith.”
Griffiths said these decisions should be made by both parents, not just one.
“It should be a team effort,” she said.
So, once you have a plan in place, what’s the best way of executing that plan?
“Model those values for your children,” Griffiths said. “You have to do it day in and day out. That’s what’s going to stick.”
It’s not what you say, rather it’s what you do.
How early? The earlier, the better.
“It’s never too early to model good behavior because children are like sponges from day one,” she said. “And even if they can’t speak yet, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t taking everything in.”
She said values like being kind to one another, tolerance and compassion can be learned from a very early age. Children, she said, learn things like empathy, from day one, by having their own needs met.
“Point out negative things you see that are done in public. This is a good way to teach your children your values.”