There is a dilemma in parenting right now regarding the concept of “core values.” How does a parent build core values in a child? Let’s begin by talking about the innate and natural abilites that exist within a child by making the assumption that there is, in most people, the ability to self-regulate. We must understand this self-regulation mechanism and understand its value in parenting.
To begin with, let me present a metaphor. When a person stands up, there is something called “equilibrium” that takes place. Balance is something that is acquired as one learns to stand up and walk as babies do; babies learn with practice how to build the skills needed to learn to walk about without trouble. Of course, assistance is necessary in the toddler years, but proficiency grows with each new step. After trial and error, and some will-power to grow, the changes occur within ourselves to become efficient walkers. There is nothing about the mechanisms of this but trial and error. It is the same with learning to grow spiritually and building core values within oneself. There is not a lot about it that requires great strength. It has a way of beginning and growing from within itself all on its own, yet most profoundly through experience.
Children are not seekers of great truth; it overwhelms them. A sadness occurs within each child, a sadness that remains when values are imposed which force upon them a highly restrictive right-wrong system of living… a system which may shut down and confuse their innate ability to make conscious, conscientious choices. Instead, maybe we should let children teach themselves in as many situations that reasonably allow for it. Within the perimeter of a safe setting, we can let our kids figure out which side of the fence they’re on. They can choose which is the “right” side or the “left” side. We should understand that each way brings with it its own choices and discoveries. Neither choice is the “right” way or the “wrong” way. Each choice is valid.
This type of learning is experiential. It has its merits. The question, “Which way is the right way?” should be replaced with, “Which way will I choose?” and “How will I decide?” This method supports the development of corrective mechanisms as well as creative opportunities for growth. The struggle may be there, yes, it will be. At least in the face of a struggle, there is an opportunity for growth and change. In the midst of struggle, a desire comes forth that commands our attention. We must be seen, heard and understood for who we are. This resonates clearly as we ring forth our truth like a great brass bell.
This method requires a parent to step outside of older models of parenting into new territory. But it seems to me that the knowledge and the skills a child builds through this exercise comes from within their own domain of experience. This is a very powerful form of learning that far outweighs the benefits of mere rhetoric.