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Family Values That Never Grow Old
A Starting Point for Discussion
I did a little web surfing and found this definition of family values. It is as good a place to start this conversation as any:
“What exactly makes up a strong family that possesses good family values? A family that sustains its members "" that supports and nourishes the members throughout the span of that family. A strong family unit creates a safe, positive and supportive place for all members to thrive. They are able to utilize resources and to live together in a fairly healthy manner.
The adults in a strong family set the tone. They are good role models that lead by example. They reach out to friends and community and teach their children the importance of doing the same -- and that becomes part of who the children are. They work together to solve problems, and they pass their skills on to the next generation. Some important elements of a strong family system are family cohesion, family flexibility and family communication.” (From essortment)
A Look Back in Time
I suspect we began to see the disintegration of family values during my lifetime, and it seems to have begun shortly after the end of WWII. Divorces began to increase in the United States during the 50’s; they increased sharply during the 60’s, again increased greatly during the 70’s, and peaked in 1981. Current statistics argue that the divorce rate is actually declining of late; however, statistics are often misleading, and recent studies suggest that the recent divorce decline is at least partially explained by the fact that fewer couples are actually getting married but rather are living together without matrimony.
Add to that the fact that in 2010 there were 11.7 million single parents with children, and that 9.9 million of those were single moms, and we begin to see at least part of the picture.
This discussion would be sorely lacking if we just discussed divorce. Also during the 50’s we began to see a phenomenon whereby both parents began to work full-time jobs. The American Dream was alive and well after WWII, and more families attempted to grab that dream by working more, earning more, and spending more on new homes, possessions, and the other trappings of “modern” life. Currently 58.5% of married couples with children have both married members working, and that percentage has steadily increased since the 50’s.
We have also seen, over the past fifty or sixty years, a decline in the schools of value-based teaching. As more and more emphasis is placed on testing and test scores, and as budget cuts continue to eliminate programs that are outside the core subjects, less and less emphasis is placed on educating children about character and morals.
Studies consistently show that the greatest influences on a child during the developing years are parents and teachers. If that influence is lessened or even eliminated, then the influence will then come from peers and social media. When that is the case, the child is skating on very thin ice.
My Own Observations
Change often happens in such small increments that it often goes unnoticed. Suddenly, one morning, we wake up and realize that things are quite the way they once were, but we really cannot pinpoint that exact moment when change occurred. So it is with family values!
I clearly remember growing up, surrounded by the teaching of morals and principles. When I wasn’t getting it at school, I was getting it at home, and it should be noted that it was not always a spoken lesson. During my formative years I witnessed on a daily basis the proper way to live life.
Principles like compassion and fair treatment, respect and love of others, were modeled for me by my parents, extended family, and neighbors, and I was gently, and at times not-so-gently, steered in the right direction regarding my behavior.
I have thought about the disappearance of family values in society often, and I have to tell you, I lay some of the blame on the Decade of the Sixties. The Love Generation leaned more towards leniency in the family, and less on demanding that children grow up by a certain moral code. Discipline became passé, and that was passed down to the generations that followed. Of course it is not the only explanation, but I definitely think it aided in the decline of some values that are so important in the development of children.
Letting my son know what he means to me
- Parenting: A Letter To My Son Tyler
An open letter to my son who has always been my biggest supporter and who will always be the greatest source of my pride.
An interesting seminar on family values
A Strong Family
Returning to the definition at the beginning of this article, we are told that a strong family unit provides a safe, positive and supportive place for all members to thrive, and that adults set the tone.
Can you think of a family in your circle of friends where that is not the case?
The formative years, generally considered the first five years of a child’s life, are crucial for their development and well-being. Children are basically human sponges during those early years, and their primary teachers are their parents. This cannot be over-emphasized! Children observe parents, absorb from parents, and model behavior they have witnessed from parents.
As a parent, this is a heavy responsibility for sure, but one that must be taken to heart. If you argue with your spouse….if you show anger often….if you show little in the way of physical acts of love…..if you are cold and uncaring….your child will, more often than not, become that which they have seen.
If, on the other hand, you are warm and embracing, if you are compassionate towards others and generous, and if you are loving and accepting, chances are excellent that your children will parrot those traits as well.
Remember this well: children are not born bullies. Children are not born cruel and they are not born scornful. Those are learned behaviors, and chances are excellent that those behaviors were learned at home. If parental influence is lacking or missing completely, then a child’s behaviors will be learned at school from teachers and/or peers.
One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received from my father was when he told me that a parent should never try to be their child’s best friend. A parent’s job is to be a parent, first and foremost. I received that same advice when I was training to be a teacher. My job as a teacher is not to be buddies to my students, but rather to be an educator. It is a difficult concept for many new teachers, but it is incredibly important that it be learned.
So That Leaves Us Where?
Well, if millions of young parents were to read this article, and vow to live by the advice given, then I would feel pretty darn good about the future regarding family values. However, since reality rarely matches wishing, then I suspect we will have to suffer a bit as a society until this particular trend reverses itself, if indeed it does.
As a society we have been horrified in the past twelve months as one mass shooting after another stole more of our collective innocence. We seem to be assaulted daily by more stories of cruelty and violence, and it leaves us shaken and wondering who to blame.
I suspect that we will see more and more of this until we, as a society, return to a strong set of family values. We cannot expect our legislators to correct this problem. Legislators are not in our homes as we raise our children. Legislators do not have meals with us, and they do not have quality family time with us. In fact, in truth, our legislators are very low on the list of people who are influential in the lives of our youth.
No, this problem falls squarely in the laps of the parents. There is some good news and some bad news related to that fact. The bad news is there is no one else to blame. The good news, however, is that we can reverse it starting today!
A chat about what is important in life
Today we can be the positive influence that our children deserve. Today we can be the models of compassion and empathy. Today we can be the models of fairness and inclusiveness. Today we can show our children, our most prized assets, what love looks like in our every word and action.
We must roll back the clocks and peel away the pages of the calendar; we must return to a time when family was the most important thing in life. Family values did not disappear because of rock music, or the internet, or video games or social media. Family values did not go the way of the dinosaur because of the NRA or the Westboro Baptist Church.
Family values declined in this country because parents failed to do their job!
It is now time to correct that failure!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)