Do you have any parenting regrets? I do. I bought into the narrative of instilling my values into my child. The biggest regret in my story is that I did not always live out the values that I was wanting to “instill” into my son. Other times, I couldn’t explain why I valued the value. The result of this parenting choice was me using shame or punishment to instill my value, which usually ended with my kid being resentful.

A value I wanted to “instill” into my son was dressing appropriately for church. That meant dress pants, shirt and tie. In his middle school years, he started to fight with me about it. He wanted me to explain why he had to wear dress pants, shirt and a tie. His friends didn’t have to and hell fire wasn’t raining down on them. My come backs were, “because I said so!”, “we need to bring our best to church!”, “you wouldn’t wear jeans to a wedding!”. The results were slammed doors, “I’m not going!”, and eventually ended with a compromise of dress pants for AM service and jeans for PM service. I never was able to explain why I valued dressing appropriately for church.

So, if “instilling” doesn’t work, then how do we pass on values without shaming or undermining ourselves in the process? I learned to invite my son in!

The process is simple: Live out what you value. Invite your kids to join you and let them say yes or no. I enjoyed volunteering when my son was growing up. Most of my volunteering took place at church in children’s ministry. I would invite my son to help me. He would say no to childcare at church but would say yes to Vacation Bible School. In his High School years, it was fun to watch the value of volunteering blossom. Playing in the church band and leading the High School ministry band were the areas he enjoyed volunteering.

Another important lesson I learned, which came out of some unpleasant interactions, is that some of my “values” were actually preferences. I value a clean home, but making a bed with hospital corners . . . well, that was my preference. I had to let those things go.

A value is something you will fight for. A preference just makes you crabby if it does not happen.


Give money to charity Children’s charities
Going to church on Sunday Wearing dress pants, shirt and tie
Daily Exercise Running

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