Monday, October 24, 2011

twelve monthly values

We were having family dinner at home one evening when the call came from Oprah’s senior producer. Oprah liked our new book, she said, and could we come to Chicago in two weeks to be on the show. “Bring your kids” she said, and we assumed they would love sitting in the studio audience and watching the five or ten minute segment we would do on the show.

The kids (we brought 7 of them) loved the stretch limo ride from the airport to the Drake hotel on the day before the show, and it wasn’t until we got the message envelope at the front desk that we realized that 1. We would be on with Oprah for the full hour and 2. So would the kids.

Panic set in. A full hour on a live-taped show that reached 20 million people, talking about parenting, with our kids right up there with us, some of whom had never in their lives gone 10 minutes without some kind of fight with a sibling. Teaching children values? Right! How about the value of drugging them before we went on air?

But fortune smiled on us. Maybe they were mesmerized by the bright lights, but they all behaved reasonably well and even answered Oprah’s questions with enthusiasm and aplomb.

So here’s the point: Oprah liked the book for the same reason as the parents who bought it. It was a simple system. It took twelve universal values and set up a pattern where families focused on one value a month. The book had “months” instead of chapters. Parents found that by concentrating on one value for a whole month, they could really teach it. The book laid out methods for each age group, and with the “value of the month” on their minds, families would find illustrations of it (or the lack of it) in everything from TV shows to real life situations with friends.

We didn’t fully realize it at the time, but the conscious, willful adoption of a specific value each month can lead to real ownership of that value by children. Being focused and trying to apply a particular value consistently and conscientiously for a full month gives a familiarity and commitment to the value. And parents pointing out its benefits and applications can engrain the value into the mind of a child. The values are repeated each year so they are reinforced and further enhanced over and over as years pass and as children grow to grasp them on deeper and deeper levels.

The twelve monthly values advocated in the book are:

1. Honesty,
2. Courage,
3. Peaceability,
4. Self-reliance and potential,
5. Commitment and fidelity,
6. Respect,
7. Self-discipline and moderation,
8. Love,
9. Loyalty and dependability,
10. Kindness and friendliness,
11. Unselfishness and sensitivity and
12. Justice and mercy.

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