Family Values

Lindsay Melluish considers how to pass on Christian family values to the next generation

Last week, on opening the pile of post that had collected on our hall table, I fell upon a supermarket pamphlet entitled ‘Our values make us different’. Interested, I opened it and inside five hallmarks were proudly listed which apparently make this supermarket different.

All organisations, churches, supermarkets … and even families … have values, whether spelled out or subconscious, which mark them out as different. Values determine the way we live, what we do with our time, the people we mix with, how we spend our money, what we watch on TV and so on. I know a family who value scouting. Every evening is taken up with running Cubs or Scouts and every member of the family is serious about it.

People who are serious about their Christian faith have often thought carefully about the way they live and want to reflect the values of that faith through a family lifestyle which is often quite different from that of many other people.

And if you’re in your twenties or older, being ‘different’ probably isn’t a problem. But for children it can feel more difficult, especially if they’re more inclined to follow than to lead. There is so much pressure to conform, that not to do what their friends are doing or watch what their friends are watching or spend what their friends are spending can feel quite hard.

So if you really want your children to own your family values for themselves, you might have to persevere at helping them and, as long as you are clear and fair and not quirky or over-rigid, you’ll find it’s not impossible.

Value check

First, check your own values. They’re coming across loud and clear to your children whether you like it or not, so why not spend a few minutes asking yourself whether you’re happy with what you’re passing on. One value my family has is ‘contentment’ but I realised a while ago that in spite of myself I was actively deterring the children from taking it on. We’d often go shopping on a free afternoon almost as a leisure activity, but when I felt irritated by their requests for new things it dawned on me that I was causing the problem by exposing them to everything that was available in the shops! Not a recipe for contentment!

Giving time

Second, invest in your relationship with your children by giving them time. Nothing will cause them to feel more warmly towards you and your perspectives than if you make time to have fun together. Shared relaxation and laughter are such powerful cementers of relationships. I’ve discovered that so often it’s from ten minutes reading a special book together, or on the way home from a game of tennis, that open, honest conversation comes.

Talk & walk

Next, capitalise on every opportunity to talk. The Bible urges the people to pass on to their children the commandments God has given them: ‘… talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’ (Deuteronomy 6:7). You can easily stimulate your children’s thinking by giving careful consideration to how you respond to their questions. For example, by asking them what they think about this news item or that soap story, or what’s happening to their friends at school. One of my children was unnecessarily concerned at a very young age with whom they would marry. Amusing as it was, we were able even then to talk about the kinds of people we might think eligible!

Under the spotlight

And finally, watch how you live. Our children scrutinize us and spot every inconsistency. Recently we were at an all-age worship service and at a certain point all those over 40 were randomly asked to stand. I stayed firmly planted in my seat, determined not to give the game away, and my daughter, noticing, said in a loud voice, ‘Mummy! That’s lying!’ I felt a bit betrayed, but she did have a point and I was pleased she knew how important honesty was in our family!