Teaching Children Values

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This winter my 7-year-old and 5-year-old decided to shovel a neighbor’s driveway just to be nice. I was so pleased with their thoughtfulness! I helped them bundle in winter gear and they headed out the front door to do some good, neighborly service. Then they came back about a half hour later with twenty-five dollars in hand and big smiles on their faces.

Apparently, the neighbor had been so appreciative that she had offered to pay them–not just a little boy wage either! They said they had refused the money at first but then, as they kept working, changed their minds and knocked on the door to say “OK, we’ll take the money after all.” I said, “You did what!?”

I knew my neighbor had likely enjoyed paying them, but I wanted them to learn about greater treasures. I wondered how I would get these two excited young boys to part with the most money they had ever possessed to reclaim the service they had originally intended to give.  I thought of the story from the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament and told it to my sons: I told them how Naomi insisted that Ruth and Orpah, after the death of their husbands, should leave her and go back to their homeland to start new lives for themselves. Orpah went, Ruth stayed. I read them Ruth 1:16. I reminded them how our neighbor had served us in so many ways over the years. I invited them to return and give her back the money, even if she tried to insist against it. I said they didn’t have to, but they both did. And when they came back, their smiles were even bigger than before.

As a mother, I am so grateful for the wealth of truth and wisdom that the scriptures hold. They are such powerful resources in parental teaching.

One mom told me that when she tried to start having family scripture study, her daughter said the Bible just seemed like “a bunch of little words.”  Yes, the scriptures can seem like that at first, but as we introduce the stories and truths to our children in a way that allows them to make meaningful connections, their lives will be greatly blessed.

Sometimes when children are young, it can be helpful to study by topic or through stories. Also, we can acknowledge to children that since the Bible is a book written a long time ago, some of the language used and the customs described might seem unfamiliar. As we read, we can translate complicated passages to simpler language and discuss how the ideas apply to our present lives. We can also teach values through songs and stories. It is useful to talk openly about family values and expectations. This can be communicated in a formal way, but also occurs as we discuss issues and questions that come up day-to-day. Being part of a faith community can also offer us strength and support. Though likely you have resources from your own faith tradition, I include links below from mine.

*my gospel standards poster https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/images/gospel-library/magazine/fr09aug24_poster_singlepage.jpg

*songs: https://www.lds.org/music/library/childrens-songbook/the-commandments?lang=eng (click on vocals and music)

*our family has also enjoyed reading biographies of individuals who have been exemplary in some way (such as Helen Keller, Mother Theresa, George Washington Carver, etc). We have also read books that promote respectful behavior, positive relationships & good values (Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Frog and Toad Series, the Saturdays, the Boxcar Children, Little House on the Prairie, just to name a few)

Grocery Store Kindness

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I’ve met angels at the grocery store–I’ve been lucky that way. One morning when I hurried through Costco with less than cooperative children, two white-haired ladies stopped me and told me, “You are so lucky to have these children. Just look at them! They are so cute and wonderful. Appreciate every minute because all too soon they will grow up.” From this simple positive comment, suddenly my eyes were open and once again I could see my children–really see them.  The ladies disappeared among the crowd of shoppers, but my day was completely changed.

Another day, I got all they way to the checkout and my kids hadn’t quite broken down yet. As I waited in line, I watched the items belonging to the lady ahead of me retreat smoothly, en masse down the conveyer belt. A can of cream of mushroom soup jogged my memory and I muttered to myself, “Oh no! I forgot the cream of mushroom soup!” The lady turned around and said, “Do you need this? You have it. I just got some because I use it a lot, but I have more at home.” I don’t know if she realized the huge gift she gave me. I no longer had to choose between planning a whole new dinner or trudging back to the soup aisle, only to wait in line all over again with a cartful of kids.

Then just yesterday I went to the store for “just a few things.” It was one of those stores where you have to rent a cart for 25 cents, so of course I didn’t get one. I was holding my baby in a sling supported by one arm and soon, a heavy, teetering pile of groceries with the other. I realized I was in trouble just as another mom stopped and said, “Do you need me to hand you something?” I said, “I think I need a cart after all!” She offered to watch my groceries for me while I went to get one and even asked, “Hey–do you need a quarter?” I did miraculously have my own quarter and soon came back to fetch my groceries. I knew I had been silly to get myself so overloaded, but this woman didn’t judge me–she just helped me. I thanked her and she said, “No problem. I’ve been in your situation before.”

So often we wonder how we can make the world a better place or how we can support families in our own community. It turns out, it may be as simple as being nice to someone at the grocery store.