It is never too early to teach our children about values.
As most parents would agree, my husband and I would like our child to grow up to be a responsible and trustworthy person. We started teaching our daughter to be responsible when she was 6 years old. This began with assigning her everyday tasks, such as doing her homework on time. And, when I say “on time”, I meant it. If she said she would start doing her homework at 10am, I made sure that she was sitting at her study table 5 minutes before 10am. Children need to learn how to be responsible and “keeping on time” is one way to teach them accountability but also the value of time, and this knowledge is important for her now as well as when she grows up and starts working in the society.
I remember when we first taught our daughter about being punctual, she was often late. She didn’t understand at first that it’s not enough to be where you are supposed to be at the start time- you also have to be prepared and ready at the designated start time. For example, if she was to be at the study table at 10, she would often stop doing whatever she was doing right at 10 and make her way to the study table 5-10mins late. With some reprimands, explanation and coaching she now understands that punctuality is about timeliness AND readiness and she is always at the study table 5 minutes before the designated time and ready to start her homework precisely “on time”. I am proud of her that she is on time and keeping her word on doing her homework. And this respect for time is just one of many important values that we as parent have to teach our children.
Another value that we have been teaching our daughter is self-respect and respect for others. I would say that ever since she was young, our daughter has been learning that showing compassion and empathy for the experiences and perceptions of others are ways to show respect. She is mindful of presenting herself in a respectful way to elders and to her fellow friends and classmates. And she also shows respect for others people’s property and assets.
People sometimes forget that there are simple day-to-day ways to show respect. For example, we can exhibit respect through small courtesies such as making sure not to knock the other person’s car door when opening the car door in tight parking lots. By taking care to protect the value of things, we show an understanding for the amount of time, and money and energy it takes to achieve and acquire these assets. It is disrespectful to take for granted that all of these items- whether a new toy, a new home, a new car, and even less tangible things- such as a new friendship, are easily replaced. These small gestures are so important and yet we do not see this respectfulness exhibited as often as we should.
Being gracious and generous are other values my husband and I have been teaching our daughter since she was little. For example, when her friends give her a book or snacks, it is important for her to understand that she should give something back to her friends in return. If she doesn’t have snacks or toys to share, she has learned that accepting what others offer without complaint, and offering gratitude, and saying thank you, is expected. When she sees us carry heavy things, she asks “May I help you to carry that mommy?”, or when she sees clothes on the floor, she would say “Mommy may I put these clothes in the laundry basket?.” We need to teach our children that when they don’t have concrete resources or things to give, they can give of their time, energy or attention, and this shows self-respect and teaches others that our contributions have value.
Another value is personal hygiene. Children must be taught early to take care of their body. I always say to my daughter, ”You only have one body. If you do not take care of your own body, who will?” Since she was young, we have taught her to keep her feet and hands clean. That means when she comes home, she has to wash her feet and hands. Brushing her teeth at least twice a day is also important because it is easy for children to brush their teeth in the morning but when it comes to brushing at night before going to bed, children normally do not do it. Therefore, it is important for us as parents to make sure our children brush their teeth twice a day. The proper way of washing her hair/shampooing etc is also important. Not only does this teach children good health and hygiene habits, but they also learn that they are deserving of time, care and attention, that if they respect themselves, this shows others that they are deserving of respect as well.
All these values are important for our children to grow up into mature, loving individuals. When they learn values and utilize those values in everyday lives early on, they are on the path to success in the future.