I believe that communicating our family’s values to our children is one of our most important tasks as parents. Because of this, I devoted a chapter on values in my upcoming book Help Your Daughter Live a Powerful Life.
If we believe in hard work, truth, honesty and realness, it’s up to us to make sure our children understand why we feel the way we do. As they grow and mature, they will step away from some of our values, but will also hang on to others.
I made time to discuss my values with my daughter, and began the discussion with some simplistic advice from The Last Lecture, a book by Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Randy Pausch, who died of pancreatic cancer. This simple expression of basic truths helped me outline my value discussion with Addy. “Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right.”
I used this quote to begin our discussion. I wanted her to understand how powerful her beliefs are, and included a conversation about the Little Engine that Could. Addy had heard the story before and didn’t like it, but the example still worked. The point was made.
Along the same lines, we talked about “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” I told her stories about Rudy Ruettiger, the 5’6” and 165 pound man who dreamed of playing football at Notre Dame, and Liz Murray, the homeless girl who eventually graduated from Harvard. Both heard “No” many times before reaching their goals. Both succeeded beyond their imaginations. These stories have both been developed into movies that you can watch with your child.
I told her the story of young Ben Carson, whose mother, Sonya, turned his life around. Sonya had a third grade education and had married when she was 13. Ben’s parents divorced when he was eight years old, and Sonya had to work multiple jobs to support her two boys. When Ben was in fifth grade he had a terrible temper and ranked at the bottom of his class. Alarmed, Sonya made a commitment to herself and promised she’d change things so that her boys could succeed in life. She allowed them to watch only three television programs weekly. She made them finish homework before they played with friends. She insisted they read two library books a week and write a report on each one. She persisted even though she couldn’t understand what they wrote.
Within two weeks of starting the new regime, Ben astonished his classmates by naming rock samples the teacher brought to class. The event changed his life. Ben understood he wasn’t stupid. He suddenly hungered for knowledge. Ben now had a chance to be something, simply because his young, uneducated mother was determined to give her children a different life—one that would be better than her own. She wouldn’t give up. She kept making changes until something worked.
Turns out that the dumbest kid in the fifth grade, Ben Carson, grew up to become the youngest Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.
These stories can lead to discussions about “brick walls” and what to do when you run into one, about how important it is to never give up when it matters to you.
We concluded with “Life isn’t fair.” We talked about what to do when faced with an unfair situation, but more importantly, I emphasized that in our family we believe sometimes the only thing you can do is: “Saddle up and ride.”
What inspires you? Why? Use books, movies and everyday encounters to share your values with your child.
Allyn Evans (TheAlertParent.com) is a published author, professional speaker and consultant residing in Stillwater.