Friday, January 27, 2012

Instilling Values

instill:  verb,  gradually but firmly establish (an idea or attitude, esp. a desirable one) in a person's mind

What do your kids value?  Is it what you value?  How do you 'establish' your values in their hearts and minds?  How were they 'established' in your mind?  Is your set of values different than your parents?  These are the million dollar questions I now open for exploration.

In your life, when you were young, did you do what your parents told you because 1) it seemed good and right to you? 2) they told you it was good and right and you believed them? or 3) you were going to get in trouble if you didn't?  

It may have been a combination of those things in varying percentages depending on the individual, but I'd venture a guess that for most of us it was mainly 3.  In other words, doing X or not doing Y, was not part of our value system.  But we may have complied in order to avoid our parent's wrath and/or punishment.  The highest 'value' was placed on avoiding a negative.  This can be true even in adulthood.  Just switch parents with law enforcement or social mores.  

But for most of us, especially Christians, we began to 'own' a different value system than the one we were born with.  One that's more like what our parents - if they were good role models - valued.  Good, kind, honest, self-sacrificing behavior.  

How does this happen?  

Certainly the Holy Spirit plays an important role in this.  But there are other factors too.  Many times, when we DO bad things, bad things HAPPEN to us.  I've wondered recently if this is the primary way we incorporate good thinking, and thus behavior, into our lives.  We compare good instruction and the results of following it, with the results of doing bad and then we 'get it'. 

1.  Do Christians 'behave' correctly in order to avoid punishment.
2.  Is that a 'lower' or less mature reason for right behavior.  Should 'avoiding a negative' transition into 'receiving a positive' - or something even higher?
3.  What can we do to effectively cause our kids to 'buy in' to the way of life we think is best for them.

I know one method that's very powerful and it's simply - by example, by the way we live.  Our actions, for good or bad, speak much louder than what we say.  We need to have those 2 things in agreement with each other.  Not that we have to be perfect, but practicing as best we can the things we say we value.

Other than that, and the work of God, I don't know what else would work besides cold, hard experience.  Get smacked in the face, knocked on the ground, and kicked a few times and you start to learn (at least most of us do).  Unfortunately, that's not a much different model than how we started with our parents.  Do bad = get spanked/grounded/sent to room etc.

Last question:  what role does faith play in all of this.  We are instructed that the righteous will live by faith.  If we truly trusted God, and all that He says, we would obey Him without having to suffer through bad consequences that resulted from sin.  Wouldn't we?

I had lunch with Steve yesterday and he asked me what's the one thing, if I could only have one thing, that I'd want for my kids.  Salvation, I answered.  Right, he responded.  Therefore, everything else is secondary.  Hmmm...


  1. Just found this site, oh I know, I was visiting the "Christian Bloggers" site and found you there. Anyway, I found your site fresh, intelligent, and very uplifting. I especially enjoyed your pictures used over your posts. Great sense of humor. Great site. Wishing you great success. Fred

  2. Thanks Fred, that's very encouraging.

  3. Just now read this entry.

    I think that one big realization that kids need to come to is that their actions have consequences. That is a law of the universe, not some rule that their parents came up with.

    While kids are living under their parents' roof, it's primarily the job of the parents to be the ones who actually implement these consequences. It's a poor parent indeed who never discplines his child. You can think of some families right now where this isn't happening, and the kids are holy terrors. Those kids are going to be in for a rude awakening when they get out into the real world and realize that the WORLD ITSELF will impose consequences on them for their poor choices, consequences that their parents never imposed. The will likely struggle through many failures and many undesirable consequences of those failures, and wonder why their life is so unhappy.

    For those kids who DO receive discipline while growing up, I think many of them ALSO don't realize that the world will likewise impose consequences on them. The follow (or don't follow) their parents' rules, but many times I think they just believe "my parents are too strict, I can't wait to get out of the house". I think those kids have a cold glass of water waiting to be splashed in their face the first time they get fired from a job for slacking off. At some point, these kids will realize that the world punishes you for poor choices just like their parents punished them for poor choices as a child. And hopefully, they will comply with the rules that the world sets. They'll work hard. They'll treat people with respect. And so on. I think it will be much easier for the kids who were discplined growing up to make the transition. I think that the kids who never suffered any negative consequences for their actions will have a lot of trouble in adulthood dealing with the consequences of their actions.

    1. Yeah, that all makes sense to me. But what about this idea of a transition from avoiding a negative to receiving a positive? In other words, as an adult, do I try to be 'good' in order to avoid God's wrath or discipline? Or would a better/higher/more effective/more mature reason be that I want to please God and receive His approval and blessings?

  4. Speaking for myself, I can say that I never obey God out of fear of what will happen if I don't. My obedience comes from a desire to please God. I hope to hear that "well done my good and faithful servant" one day. Should I have more of a fear of discipline? Maybe.

    Here's an article that details several other reasons for obeying God:

    1. Good attached article. I have Grudem's Systematic Theology. The dude is smart.

  5. That's interesting to me that you'd say you never obey God out of fear. Do you ever fear God when you've done wrong? What do you think the role of 'fear of God' is, if any, in the life of the Christian?