Building Character: Deciding Which Values to Instill in Your Children for a Better Future

In today’s social media-saturated world, it can be tough to figure out which values to instill in your children to help them thrive and make changes for the better
Building Character: Deciding Which Values to Instill in Your Children for a Better Future Building Character: Deciding Which Values to Instill in Your Children for a Better Future
Building Character: Deciding Which Values to Instill in Your Children for a Better Future
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As parents raising children in the African diaspora, we all dream of our kids growing into happy, grounded, successful adults who positively impact their communities. But in today’s social media-saturated world, it can be tough to figure out which values to instill in your children

According to a study published in Cogent Education, children who scored highest on measures of gratitude, life satisfaction, and other positive traits had higher GPAs than their peers with poor scores in these areas. They also showed better physical health markers and lower rates of risky behaviors like bullying, substance abuse, and self-harm.  

Meanwhile, the CDC reports that more than 4 in 10 school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2021, pointing to a crisis of low self-worth.

With social media use being a key risk factor for depression and body image issues, providing our children with an empowering values foundation has never been more urgent.

Building Character: Deciding Which Values to Instill in Your Children for a Better Future
Helping our kids develop authentic self-love is foundational for fostering other positive values. Image source: Freepik

Breaking it Down: Key Values to Instill in Your Children

Love & Self-Love

Helping our kids develop authentic self-love is foundational for fostering other positive values that see them through life’s ups and downs with resilience.

Children secure in their worth grow into more confident, empathetic individuals who are far less likely to succumb to negative peer pressure or destructive behavior patterns.

But self-love doesn’t just happen – it must be actively nurtured, with parents’ unconditional love and affirmations being a child’s first window into self-acceptance.

From a toddler’s first days of life, we should regularly model loving self-talk, praise efforts over achievements, and remind our little ones: “I love you always and exactly as you are.” 

Engaging children in self-reflective practices like journaling or storytelling reinforces self-awareness and provides a tool for healthily processing emotions.

Family traditions celebrating each child’s unique strengths and inner beauty send an empowering message that their value transcends superficial traits.

Self-Control in Our Distracting Digital Era

Developing self-discipline and the ability to delay gratification has always been vital – but perhaps never more so than in our era of hyperconnectivity and infinite distractions at our fingertips. We can start teaching age-appropriate self-control by:

  • Having open conversations about the importance of managing our tech use and social media habits to avoid mindless overconsumption and reactivity
  • Explaining why we have reasonable limits on screen time, electronics at the dinner table, etc., and framing them as opportunities to practice self-awareness and restraint
  • Praising instances when kids pause before reacting, avoid impulses like angry outbursts or mean comments online, and think through potential consequences

Gratitude 

In a society obsessed with acquiring more, teaching an attitude of gratitude anchors our children in appreciating the richness of what they already have. From a young age, we can foster gratefulness by:

  • Having each family member share a daily “gratitude” or something they’re thankful for around the dinner table
  • Encouraging kids to keep a gratitude journal, listing out moments, people, abilities, and simple joys they feel blessed to have each day 
  • Discussing how even life’s challenges help us grow stronger and more appreciative of our support systems when we make it through
  • Modeling gratitude behavior like writing thank-you notes, donating unneeded items to those in need, and taking time to soak in life’s beauty through practices like Prayer or meditation

Patience & Perseverance

We’re raising the next generation in a culture of immediacy and on-demand services. Few modern kids intrinsically understand the old proverb: “Patience is the mother of all virtues.” 

However, fostering the perseverance to stick with long-term goals and overcome obstacles calmly is key to developing grit. As parents, we can cultivate these vital qualities by:

  • Setting incremental, achievable goals and celebrating the small victories along the way to a larger aim 
  • Encouraging interests that require perseverance over time like learning an instrument, sport, second language, or other skill
  • Discussing how icons like Nelson Mandela displayed supreme patience and tenacity to eventually triumph  
  • Modeling graciousness when challenges arise, seeing failures as life lessons, and taking breaks to reset. Our kids will learn to do the same.
  • Embracing discomfort and struggles as opportunities to practice inner calm, delaying outbursts or quitting too soon

Focus

With endless entertainment and digital inputs competing for our children’s shrinking attention spans, teaching-focused awareness and the ability to be present are more vital than ever. Simple mindfulness exercises we can work into our family’s routine include:

  • Taking calming breaths, feeling our inhales and exhales 
  • Quiet meditation sessions focusing on the senses (Ex: A raisin’s texture and taste)
  • Nature walks to tune into sights, sounds, and sensations without multitasking  
  • Visualization practices having them vividly imagine a peaceful scene
  • Intentional listening activities where they summarize what you said
Building Character: Deciding Which Values to Instill in Your Children for a Better Future
Encouraging interests that require perseverance over time. Image source: Freepik

Introspection

With influences like social media constantly blasting external messages about who we should be, fostering our youth’s capacity to pause, self-reflect, and realign with their inner voice and values is invaluable. Some practices for nurturing self-awareness include: 

  • Asking open-ended questions about their thoughts, feelings, and opinions on issues rather than leading
  • Encouraging journaling to download thoughts in a private space 
  • Discussing our personal ancestry and cultural roots to connect with a grounding sense of identity
  • Celebrating alone time for solitude, reading, and disconnecting from noise
  • Modeling checking in with our heart-callings before making decisions

Conclusion: Deciding Which Values to Instill in Your Children for a Better Future

Instilling these profound virtues rooted in ancient African wisdom takes patience, modeling, and repetition to become ingrained as core operating principles for our children.

But the rewards could mean raising a generation of purpose-driven leaders, thinkers, and visionaries building a more whole, just world from the inside out.

READ: Raising Activists? How to Teach Kids About Their Work Rights

While protests, strikes, and social movements might come to mind, empowering your child about work rights starts at home and can be blended into everyday conversations. Read here

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