Practical Dad

Family Values

If you listen to the media, then you hear the recurrent phrase family values emanating from the conservative side of the spectrum.  The values - faith in God, respect for elders and institutions, love of country, thrift and the like - are packaged by the media in a shiny, neat red-state bow and the sense is that they are so inter-related that the removal of any one of them leads to a yellowing and early expiration date for the remainder.  But parents should decide early on what other values they wish to instill in the kids along with the mainstays; this is especially the case as there can be an effect on the family budget and distinct choices must be made if they're to be pursued.

In our case, we decided early on that travel and exposure to the great, wide world was important for the kids.  Our wish is to inculcate in them the understanding that there are experiences and vistas beyond the confines of a small town and that there was great value to partaking of them.  The reality however, is that this is a value that costs money with an impact upon our daily lives.  We've managed to get around part of the cost by tacking vacations onto business trips so that my wife's airfare and some of our lodging was covered by the employer.  We've managed larger trips by overtly saving each month and refusing certain kid requests by simply uttering the name of the proposed location.  Other choices made overtly support the travel value, such as driving used cars - we've had three cars towed away for salvage in our marriage - and refusing to hire anybody to do jobs that we can conceivably do ourselves, such as landscaping, yard and housework.  When I was working to finish a lengthy outdoor project with assistance from Middle, I was glad to hear him say that we probably do more around our own house than most of our neighbors.  

There are other values that we work to instill with the kids and that continues even when they're well into the teen years.  Do your best.  Understand that debt is as much a dangerous tool as a powersaw, badly damaging if not used with respect and thought.  Question what you hear.  Treat the media's messages with skepticism.  Some will look at the last two and wonder whether these are actually true values, which are usually associated with virtues; I'd argue that when the message coming from the prevailing media and society is ultimately harmful, then valuing skepticism and free thought is indeed a virtue by itself.

That's the key part of purposefully working to instill values with the kids.  They're certainly going to get the prevailing values from the media, and even if you work to control the electronic media, they'll still get hear those values from their friends. Think what matters to you and then begin the lengthy process of constant reinforcement so that the kids aren't overwhelmed by the negative values of the prevailing culture.

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