I wish your mother raised you better! How to create and instill solid family values
- dr Gustav Gous
Have you ever thought or said out of sheer frustration: "I wish your parents raised you better". Some people are just easier to live and work with than others. This doesn't just apply to our marriage partners, friends and colleagues, but also to politicians and business people - to all people.
Values are invisible, but are revealed in the behaviour of people in private and public places. Some try to fake it, even claim their mothers raised them well, but the disrespectful way they handle people, and the ugly way they conduct themselves on their social media pages, prove them wrong.
Especially under pressure your true colours and values come out. If you squeeze an orange: What comes out is what is inside. What is inside is what your parents instilled in you during your formative years, and what you instilled in yourself through your own decision making.
This blog is on how to instill good values in your children, and further how to self-correct, if you were downloaded with a few not-so-good values (like greed is good, and cursing other people is the way to go, or I am allowed to kill in the name of my faith, etc). This blog is not a philosophical or theological debate about values. It is a practical guide how to instill basic good values.
A. Why is it important to instill values in your children? Two reasons:
Firstly: Because I have to live with your (even grown-up) children, and you have to live with mine, and we must do each other the favour that we don't have to live and deal with obnoxious brats in our daily encounters. So please - raise your children well, and I will try the best with mine, and perhaps this blog can help us in the process.
Secondly: Any democracy needs good values. A democracy does not prescribe values: It just takes the majority of the values in a country and makes them the rule. In a democracy with a majority of corrupt thieves, it will become a fiefdom of thieves. The same can happen in political parties, in companies with bad corporate cultures, and obviously also in families.
B. Why humans need values (and animals don't).
Values are principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life. Values are rules for success. We internalize our parents' and cultural rules and values.
Animals don't need values. They have a pre-programmed computer program guiding their behaviour, called instinct. It prescribes what to eat, who to hunt, what song to sing. A Lion cannot be tried in a court of law for eating a human being, for breaking a rule or transgressing a law – it is all about instinct.
Humans are born open-ended. We can give shape to our lives and we do it according to our values. We need values to guide our behaviour. We get these values form our parents. They in turn, get it from their religion or world view and in their extended culture where they grew up and were born into.
Parents instill values though example and deliberate teaching into their children. Parents, teachers and religious leaders have approximately 18 years to instill these values. In most cultures there is an age of responsibility (14 or 18 or 21) where people say. You have learnt a lot now and can be a responsible member of society now.
The process can be compared to the base programs on a un-programmed computer. These programs must first be downloaded and then be used to do your productive work. Values are the base programming on top of which a young person must construct a successful life.
C. Values are rules for success. Concentric circles of Truth, Belief , Values, Behaviour, Culture, Destiny.
Values are rules for success. The best way to explain values to my mind was the construct by my colleague dr Mark Manley. According to him you can see it in concentric circles:
In the core you have TRUTH, Some believe there is an independent truth, some don't.
In the 1st concentric circle you get BELIEFS - which are chosen truths. My beliefs are the things I choose to be, or deem true.
In the 2nd concentric circle, you get VALUES - which are RULES for SUCCESS. Where-as truth does not change, beliefs and values can change. Centuries ago it was valuable to carry a sword. Nowadays it is valuable to carry cutting edge technology in the form of a smart phone.
In the 3rd concentric circle you get BEHAVIOUR. Almost all human behaviour has an ethical element to it, because it is based in realising some sort a value - good or bad: To keep fit, or to get revenge. Other people can make a moral judgement about your behaviour. You are responsible for your own behaviour.
In the 4th concentric circle you have HABITS. Habits are protocols for success (or protocols for failure if they are bad habits). Habits are engraved behaviour patterns.
The 5th concentric circle is CULTURE. Culture is the way we do things. Culture is the sum total all the habits in the group. Your destiny is determined by the culture. You create the family culture and it will contribute to the results flowing from your family; you create the corporate culture and the corporate culture creates the bottom line.
Values are an important part of this ‘value chain’ of concentric circles.
It is fair to say that we really need to instill good values in our children, for the benefit of us all. How do you do that? Let's explore.
D. How to create family values: The basic process in 7 steps
Step 1 is to:
1. Clarify your own values
Here are a few suggestions on how you can clarify your own values in the shortest possible way.
1.1 Rules for success-letter. Write a letter to your child, friend, brother or significant other under the heading: ‘If you want to be successful in life – this is what you must do …’ . The list can include:
- Work hard, practice makes perfect,
- Love people and use money, not the other way around.
- etc .. Write a full list.
A great example of such a letter can be found in Hamlet: Read the father-to-son advice in the speech of Polonius to his son Laertes. (Shakespeare's Hamlet Act 1 Scene 3): “Go; Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice; ... Neither a borrower nor a lender be; ... This above all: to thine own self be true, ..” . etc . This is a typical value letter from historical literature.
Now you do the same! Complete your list. In writing them down you actually formulate your own values. Now look at them and evaluate your own values! Are they good at all? If these values are extended to all of humanity, will the world be a better place? Do you actually live by your own rules?
1.2 Get my roles in life clarified: What do I stand for in these roles; Another way to verbalise your current values is to break down your life in the various roles you play (or would like to play) and then describe how you want to fulfil thee roles.
What do I stand for: As a Father / Mother: Loving, strict, fun …; As a friend: Loyal , supporting, fun, … as a Colleague: Trustworthy, honest … . Complete the list as a brother/sister, citizen/resident, Leader/Follower.
1.3 Do the Funeral ‘begin with the end in mind exercise: Let’s say it is your funeral: All the above people must say something about the kind of person you were. How will they describe you now? They will describe the values that you are living. Are you happy with what they will say now? How would you like them to describe you?
This leads to the following:
2. Test and purify your values: Keep the rules for success and cut out the 'rules for disaster' ('Mafia" rules).
Remember the process of value creation: You learned your values from your parents, the religion you were born into, their world view (liberal, conservative, communist, racist), from your culture and subculture you grew up in, and from other influences such as teachers, friends, TV and pop-culture. In this process negative and positive values could have been downloaded.
2.1 Keep the rules for success and cut out the 'rules for disaster' ('Mafia" rules).
Not all values that you were taught, are necessarily rules for success. Many are rules for disaster. You must ask. Are they good at all or are they a bunch of Mafia rules. We must keep the rules for success and cut out the 'rules for disaster' ('Mafia" rules).
§ If your faith asks of you to plant bombs to kill people, to behead opponents, or to drive with vehicles into crowds of innocent bystanders, then it is perhaps time to rethink your values, and even time to change or abandon the religious framework it emanates from.
§ If your father had aggressive patriarchal values and believed it is necessary to rule with violence and fear, then it is perhaps time to change.
§ If your world view tells you everything is relative, and everything goes, then it is time to grow a value backbone. If you stand for nothing, you will fall for everything.
§ If your financial industry sub-culture tells you: Greed is good, then it is time to rethink. Greed caused the global credit crunch in 2008/9 and almost the collapse of the world economy, so it is obviously not good.
The good thing is that every generation can look at the previous one with continuity and discontinuity. Parents and culture always set a perfect example: They show you exactly what to do, and what NOT to do. It is up to you to keep the best and discard the rest. If you had an absent father, then your value can be to be there, present and available for your child.
If your parents, your faith, your secular worldview, your liberal or conservative political pressure group, or society, instilled in you bad rules to achieve success in bad things, ( how to be corrupt without being caught out), then you must take responsibility to get yourself better values to life by. Sometimes you must download AND install better values. Sometimes it is so bad, that you must reboot totally!
2.1 Get better values. Where do I get better values?
(a) Go to your religious writings. I my case I go to
ü The 10 commandments in Exodus 20 and the summary in Mathew 22:36-38 ( 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ,
ü The fruit of the spirit texts (Galatians 5: 22-23 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.) ,
ü The words of wisdom in Proverbs. (1:11 Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.)
ü The Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful,
ü for they will be shown mercy.)
ü Also Paul’s Advice for Timothy: 2 Timothy 1:6 You received a gift from God ... Now I’m reminding you to fan that gift into flames. 7 God didn’t give us a cowardly spirit but a spirit of power, love, and good judgment. 1 Timothy 4: 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
(b) Go read Rydyard Kipling's poem "If."
If you can keep your head when all about you ; Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, ; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; .... etc ... you'll be a man my son
(c ) Go read the full father-to-son advice in Shakespeare's Hamlet Act 1 Scene 3: speech of Polonius to his son Laertes .
…and many more. If you know of special value letters – please post it in the remarks below the blog.
(d) Go back to 'kindergarten'.
Interestingly enough: Whatever we need to know you already could have learned in nursery school. Robert Fulghum, in his famous book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" share the 16 things he learned in kindergarten:
1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don't hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don't take things that aren't yours. , ... to name the first few.
(the rest include: Say sorry, wash your hands, eat healthily (milk and cookies), live a balanced life of work and play, take a nap etc)
If the politicians and business people in all countries only heeded the call of the first six values, there would be less corruption, political killings, and mining houses leaving a mess behind after exploiting nature.
2.2 What are the criteria it identify and choose good values? To name a few:
i. The Golden rule, is one of the best: Do unto others as you would like to be done unto you. It is based on Jesus' teaching "Love your neighbour, as you love yourself. ( The Mafia or any other criminal outfit or gang have their own set of rules: 'Do unto others before they do it to you’. Obviously they are very unhappy when you use their own rule against them. Criminal outfits don't mind stealing, but are very upset if you steel from them. The criteria is: Would I be happy if other people use this value on me. If not, then it is not good enough.
ii. Ask: Is this value just good for me, or does it bring the greatest good for all.
iii. Test the outcome. How did it work for you?
iv. Some rules just have universal application. which values have universal application : "Thy shalt not kill" , “Thy shalt not steal somebody else's wife/husband.” There is just this undisputed universal ring to it as universal rules for success.
We know you get your from your family culture, but new and better values can create new and better culture.
3. Live your values
Before you try to teach your values, do the not-so-common thing to live your values. The best way to teach your values is to set the example. Children do what you do, not what you say. A teacher cannot try to instill health values and tell a child not to smoke, with a sigaret in the mouth.
In many people, the value programs were downloaded in their minds, but were soon forgotten and not installed in their hearts and actions. Walk the walk, and do not only to talk the talk.
4. Clarify your values in different Categories: Practical breakdown
We must further clarify your values in different categories. General values must be translated into crystal clear behaviours in specific areas. This is best done in a family meeting where everybody, young and old, big and small, come prepared with the rules house and relationships, they want on the list. Examples of Categories and behaviours:
v Relationships with People: We don't hurt each other, we expect and see the best in each other, we build each other
v The way we communicate: We talk people up, not down; good tone of voice, we do not shout on each other
v Things and possessions: we look after our possessions, we ask first if you want to use another's, person's possessions
v Honesty: We talk and tell the truth
v Responsibility: Everybody takes responsibility for their own actions. There is cause and effect:
v House rules: You clean up your own mess, don't just put things down, put them away, everybody takes their own plate to the dishwasher, etc
v Money: We use it responsibly and frugally
v Excellence: we do what we do well; we sharpen talents
v Fun: We always have time for fun and jokes and humour.
v Mistakes: We apologize if we do wrong, we forgive where necessary.
v Family team: We help, assist and support each other to achieve our life goals. We have together time and me-time.
v Relationship with God: We honour God and live thankful lives, and enjoy his presence.
The above list is the result of a weeklong family project to compile it and get input from everybody.
This is a good time for husbands and wives to make sure that they are on the same page here. Before you take it to the children, you must have a united front here, otherwise children will divide and rule. If parents can’t get it right - then go see a life coach to help you come to a joint conclusion.
5. Decide what your family / group stand for: Personalise it with your surname
Go further and personalize your family values with a surname acronym. Use first names of your children to further personalize it. I took our family name and used the first letters to spell out what we, the Gous-family, stand for.
5.1 MY Surname : The GOUS Family Values
G = God
Ø We live in a special personal intimate relation with God
Ø We get our values of love and justice from God
Ø Our lives actions are inspired ('in spiritus') by God
O = Others
Ø We try to touch the lives of others in a positive way
Ø Outreach to others: We reach out to help where we can
Ø We respect others and try to live in peace and justice with others
U = Us
Ø As a family we help and support each other.
Ø We stand together and do things together. We are there for each other
Ø We help each other grow, and help each other to achieve our life goals, and live our life purposes
S = Special
Ø We make life special
Ø We have special family traditions
Ø We make every moment special. We make the ordinary extraordinary, We make, even the mundane special and memorable
(It translates a little different in Afrikaans).
I suggest that you do the same. Obviously the 'Palin-Brinkworth' and the 'Jansen-van-Rensburg' families will be really sorted with enough letters for all the values!
Go even one step further. Get every child to take the letters of their own names to personalize their own values. It was very special for me to see how each of my children embraced the values they attached to the letters of their names. It got them really involved and they had to think: What do I stand for in life? Because we all know: If you stand for nothing, you will fall for everything.
6. Formulate and Teach your Family values with your metaphor of choice: A 'Value Tree', or 'Umbrella rules', or Value Posters
We use the Value tree. I saw a presentation of my Austrian friend and international speaker, Liss Heller, which designed this poster for her motivational talks. We embraced it and it is on the wall at most visible place in the house where we all move daily.
6.1 Value tree
We took Liss Heller’s Value poster, and wrote our GOUS family values on it. Then we wrote the practical categories (in section 4 above) in the open spaces in the branches. It is a daily reminder what we stand for, and a teaching tool. It takes the pie-in-the-sky moralist values from religion/culture and brings it down to earth in practical guidelines for day-to-day behaviour. Every day we refer back to the value tree, in two ways: (i) In a positive manner. Well done! We really stuck together as a family this week and helped each other. (ii) In a disciplinary way: What is a rule as far as communication is concerned? In what you just said – did you talk your sister up or down? It is a correction tool.
6.2 Umbrella rules
We previously used Hettie Brittz' concept of umbrella rules. We had a big drawing of an umbrella on our fridge with all our family values on it. The concept is. The umbrella keeps you safe from the elements and protects you. These rules protect us. It is not there to confine us. It is there to help us not to get damaged in life. The metaphor of an umbrella helps us to categorise the different values in the sections of the umbrella. If you move from underneath the umbrella, there are consequences.
Here is a picture of the house rules of an old age home where I spoke recently, using the umbrella metaphor.
6.3 Value Posters: “In this house we ….”
There are so many “In this house we … Value posters available on the internet. Print one you can align with and put it on the wall or the fridge.
7. Constantly refer back to your Value tree. Instill, enforce and reinforce
The value of all these tools are: You can constantly refer back to the rules you decided on and ask: Did your behaviour conform to this value. You can use the 18 years you have a child in your house to bring the behaviour constantly in line with the values. There is no immediate results. That is why we have our children for the formative years in the house to constantly align their behaviour with the family values.
There is no value in having the values on the wall, but not inscripted or engraved in the hearts and minds and actions of family members (moms and dads included!). If these values are not taught and lived daily, then it is a waste of time. These are our agreed values. These are our rules for success. Let’s live by them.
E. Business application: Values in companies.
You create corporate culture the same way you create family culture. All of the above can be translated into the workplace. Corporate culture is created by behaviour that is based on values. Good values, good company, better bottom line. Bad values, and then you work in a cut-throat environment. Initially mafia style companies show results, but they always have to live in fear of being caught out.
Many corporations go through exercises where they even create positive company values and put it up on posters. Very often these exercises are a failure, because of two reasons:
- The leaders in the company do not live the values (not walking the talk) .
- Adhering to the values is not built into the whole performance management system. Values are defined but adherence is not reinforced or rewarded.
You create corporate culture from the bottom (the sum total of all individual behaviours), but you instill values from the top through example and performance management.
F. Change your destiny through sound values.
Sow a value, reap a thought; sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a family (or corporate) culture; sow a culture reap a destiny.
I so wish my country had better (less corrupt) leaders. But let us don’t not give up. Let us all start to build the values that we want to see in society, into our children. And may the younger generation be brave and bold to challenge their parents: dad, what kind of a person are you, that you are a member of a political party/corporation, who does corruption? Then we will change our destiny.
Special offer: A 40 page full program (white paper) available on how to practically do it step by step @ R199 . Email me: Gustav@gustavgous.co.za
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Disclaimer: Important notice to you as the reader: Although the life coach (dr Gustav Gous) provide certain recommendations, the sole and final responsibility for decision-making remains your own and that the life coach or anybody associated to him and his company Short Walk Seminars Pty Ltd cannot be held responsible for any of your choices and reactions. You, the reader, must take full responsibility for your life, reactions and choices.
Dr Gustav Gous is an International Motivational Speaker and Executive Life Coach with experience on 5 continents. He
was the in-house counselor for the petro-chemical company Sasol for 9 years. He is known for his Transformational leadership programmes on Robben Island, titled the “Short Walk to Freedom”.
He is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and past President of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa and a member of the APSS (Asia Professional Speakers Singapore). Currently he is heading up the Diversity Intelligence Institute, specializing in rolling out Diversity Intelligence interventions for
international companies. His leadership caps does for leadership what De Bono's thinking hats did for creativity and problem solving. His Coaching programme on national Radio in South Africa RSG FM 100-104 "Fiks vir die lewe" touches the lives of many South Africans. email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org www.gustavgous.co.za , www.diviin.com ,
Follow him on Twitter: @GustavGous or on Facebook and LinkedIn .