As a branch of the Ministry of Education with specific responsibility for the nation’s children, we are constantly aware of the issues that are obvious within our Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. It is these issues that direct our focus to our 32nd Child Month theme,“Instil Values, Build Strong Children, Secure the Future.”
This theme promotes instilling good, solid values, which so suitably correlates with the mission statement of the Early Childhood Sector: “To provide High Quality Care and Education for the maximum number of children in their early years of life and facilitate collaboration between the family, community and those who are providing early childhood care and education in order to prepare the children for primary school and life in general.”
Since developing solid values in the next generation is a long-term process and not a single event, it means that the act of “instilling values” will eventually accrue positive dividends for our children throughout their lifespan.
Let me begin by emphasizing that, through children, humanity transmits its values; this begins in infancy. Hence, an appropriate question that must be asked in caring for children is “What are values?” Values and virtues are two words which can be confused because of their close association. We must clarify the term ‘values’ so as to put this article into its proper perspective, so that it is not confused with the connection it shares with ‘virtues.’
Despite the number of contexts in which ‘values’ is used, this article attempts to explore what is meant by ‘value’ in terms of personal and cultural associations. ‘Value’ is a word that denotes many meanings, and it is based on cultural terms. A value is something related to a particular culture that is known as a culturally accepted norm. Every culture emphasizes the values their members share extensively. For instance- ‘respecting elders’, ‘punctuality’, ‘neatness’, ‘cleanliness’, may be considered as values.
Further, values can also be personal. In terms of the personal level, values are things that people recognize as being important and cherished. ‘Virtues’, on the other hand, represent the good morals of a person. They are positive traits that are considered the foundation of a morally principled person. Virtues can also be referred to as the characteristics of people who make up a certain culture or society.
However, unlike values, virtues do not define a particular culture. Virtues are often associated with personal traits. Thus, it is understandable that values and virtues are distinctly different in terms of what they reflect: values reflect what is accepted by cultures, while virtues reflect characteristics of a human being in terms of his/her morals.
The next question one may ask is “How do we instil positive values in our children so that they become strong children who would eventually influence a nation positively, and in so doing, create a secure future?” One of the ways that young children adopt the values of a society is by internalizing the values they will live by. This seems to suggest that as adults, parents, teachers, and members of society, it is absolutely important that we exhibit positive attributes for the children with whom we come into contact.
Here are some basic tips to help you instil positive values in the lives of children. Foster a warm relationship. Children are more willing to accept and internalize parental values when they feel close to their parents. This means spending quality time with children as this reinforces shared interest and positive values within the family.
Cultivate open communication. Open communication increases the odds that children will listen to and internalize their parent’s values. Pay attention to your child’s words and interest: When you show interest in things that matter to a child, you show them that you care about their choices and activities. Give children choices and appropriate independence. When parents don’t give choices or don’t see their children as unique individuals, the children may end up pushing away in order to develop their own sense of who they are. Provide appropriate information, guidelines and structure. Set clear and fair expectations and consequences, and then follow through with the consequences when needed.
Cultivate skills to put values into practice. Help children to be confident in standing up for what they believe and take actions based on their values. Provide experiences that reinforce positive values and commitments. If being honest is important, give them opportunities to be honest.
View mistakes as teachable moments. Children will make mistakes and not live up to your values. Think through appropriate consequences as well as alternative strategies for dealing with the issue in the future. This may take time, but it will pay off in the long run.
Recognize the limits. Even though you can influence your child’s values, you don’t control them. This relationship is for better or for worse. When children reject some values that are really important to you – that doesn’t mean you have failed: it simply means they are becoming their own person.
Learn from children. Your relationship with your child/children is a two way street. Small Phrases and Simple Acts. Start by building character and instilling basic values in young children by teaching them the fundamentals of universally held values. For example, teach children to say “Please,” “Thank You”, and “I’m sorry”. Impart the value of responsibility by having your child/ children do simple tasks.
‘Talk the talk’ and ‘walk the walk’. Show and tell children what matters. The best way to do this is to ‘show and tell’. Help them see the values in action in your own life, then talk about what you do and why you do it. You do this by ‘walking the walk’; when you are not ‘walking the walk’, many key teachable moments will be lost. Remember ‘more is caught than taught’.
It is Never Too Late. Let children know what has caused you to stray from your ideals and tell them you are striving to be and do better. Share examples of mistakes as teachable moments arise naturally.
Teach the Value of Money: Be open about your finances and share how important the concept of saving is to you.
Lastly, in order to instil values and build strong children – parents, teachers and members of the community must become intentional in modelling values. This can be done through open communication, ‘walking the walk’, and ‘talking the talk’, and using each failure as a teachable moment: in so doing we will be able to engage those children within our sphere of influence. Let us be reminded that it is important to instil values while the child is still at an impressionable stage. Once they become teenagers, it is harder to get them to listen.
In closing, I must conclude by saying let us be intentional in instilling positive values for the betterment of all children.
“HAPPY 32nd Child Month CELEBRATION”!!
Mrs. June Wallace,
Ag. Director, Early Childhood Unit