COMMENTARY 768.3: Shaping Values, Shaping Lives

Blessed with the opportunities and burdened with the aggravations of raising four teenage daughters , my wife Anne and I are profoundly aware of the importance of instilling good values and decision-making skills to help them be safe, successful, happy, and good.

I think we’re doing a good job, but we know that isn’t enough. We worry about the values and character of other parents’ kids who may befriend, date, or marry our girls. And we worry about what our kids will learn in classrooms, playgrounds, and sports fields about things like honesty and honor, respect and responsibility, kindness and compassion, and service and self-discipline.

Although conscientious parents attentive to the moral education of their children can do a great deal to lay a solid foundation of positive values, lessons taught at home will be either reinforced or undermined by teachers, coaches, and others. Quite simply, when we shape values, we shape lives.

We can’t be value-neutral when we interact with kids because everything we say and do sends a message about what we believe and what we value, and these messages are part of the character-development process. If we refuse to promote positive values, we inadvertently demean them.

That’s why I’m such an ardent advocate of purposeful and pervasive values education. I want all the adults who help shape the attitudes and habits of my children to consciously and competently teach, enforce, advocate, and model positive character traits like trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship – the Six Pillars of Character.

This is a great opportunity for you to consider whether schools in your area, or organizations you’re involved with, could be more directly involved in this vital effort.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts

Comments 5

  1. Michael, the vision and purpose that you and Anne share for your daughters is explicit in the Mission of the United States Military Academy, reflected in its transformational methods for developing Commissioned Officers (Trusted Leaders of Character) for our Army and the Nation.

    Warm regards,

    Patrick A. Toffler

  2. Great comments Michael! Quotes similar to these in your “Pursuing Victory with Honor: The Ultimate Sportsmanship Tool Kit,” inspired me to write a book calling for the reform of the NCAA. As you point out in the Tool Kit, many schools say the goal of their athletic program is the personal development of student-athletes, but the reality is they are seeking positive publicity.

    I am concerned that we as parents, youth league directors, high school coaches and athletic administrators can teach the values of fairness and sportsmanship only to have those values undermined by a collegiate athletic structure that is inherently unfair. There is a Golden Rule that exists in college athletics which states, “those who have the gold, rule.” When compared to the structure and function of other major sports leagues, the NCAA fails miserably at allowing every member school or team to compete on a level playing field.

    The book is entitled, “It’s Possible! Realignment and Playoffs – College Football’s Opportunity” and features some of your great quotes about the impact of sports on American culture.

    1. Thanks for calling your book to our attention and thanks for writing it. Please be sure to post a letter or comment on the Pursuing Victory With Honor Blog.

  3. I could not agree more. And way too many people do not know what they truly value or how to advocate or express them.
    If you want to look at a tremendous example of this principle in action, read “When the Game Stands Tall” by Neil Hayes. It’s the true story about a very successful coach and team. The coach uses the sport to teach life lessons and values. And he focuses on developing the kids rather than on “winning”. And the wins happen as a result of the focus. Great story with many valuable lessons. Everyone who works with kids should read it.

  4. Being mindful that our words and actions are always teaching values, I reflected on the very worthwhile things Michael and his wife hope to provide to their four daughters: safety, success, happiness and goodness. Continued reflecting brought to mind a saying a psychologist friend of mine shared some years ago: “Many parents are working hard to make their children happy; I think they should also work at making them adaptable.” In this world in which change is constant and rapid, adaptability is an often-overlooked but nonetheless important value to instill. Adaptability empowers us to graciously accept and enjoy happy moments while also empowering us to “bend” with sad and disappointing moments. Adaptability gets us through our failures without succombing to the temptations to give up. I wonder how others might describe ways adaptability works as a strength of character?

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