COMMENTARY 980.2: Family Values

Our values — the core beliefs that drive behavior — determine our character, our ethics and our potential. Thus, the most important thing we can do for our children is to stimulate them to develop positive values that will help them become wise, happy and good. This is no simple matter. The first step is to achieve greater clarity about what we really believe and what we really want our children to believe. Often there is an inconsistency between what we say we value (our stated values) and what we actually value as revealed by our choices (our operative values). We also need to recognize the complexity of our value structures. Our life goals are determined by our desires and wants. Another category of values concerns our beliefs as to what works. These often dictate what we do to get what we want. Still a final type of values comprises our ethical views as to what is right. In a person of character, these values supercede others. As my children are getting older, I’ve been thinking about constructing with my wife a Statement of Family Values expressing our beliefs about the nature and relative importance of a dozen basic matters. If you want to try it, concisely state the beliefs you hope to instill in your children regarding:

  • Character and ethics
  • Faith and spirituality
  • Marriage and family relationships
  • Friendship
  • Education
  • Self-reliance
  • Attitude
  • Service
  • Success
  • Money and material possessions
  • Drinking and drugs
  • Premarital sex

We teach our children values with everything we say and do. The trouble is we’re not always aware of what value we’re teaching. Taking the time to formulate a Statement of Family Values can provide an unambiguous source of values your children will never forget. You can get this list at our website at This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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