What Do You Stand For?

by Carleton Kendrick

When asked to describe your family values, would your children say honesty, courage, and faith?

What does your family stand for? I don't mean whether you vote Republican or Democrat. I'm asking about what character traits define who your family is. What virtues do you embrace? What principles guide your behavior? Do your children know -- and more importantly see in action -- what you feel about integrity, compassion, tolerance, equality, and forgiveness? When asked to describeyour family, would your children mention proudly that you stood for honesty, courage, and faith? Your children need to know the reasons behind what you stand for. Your family of origin's values?Life-changing events in your past? Your religious beliefs? They also need to know what you won'tstand for and why, like racism and bigotry.

Before you engage your children in a discussion of what your family stands for, you might ask them what they think are your family's most important beliefs and values. How have they come to those conclusions?What have they observed in your actions and in what ways have they lived their lives to prove what you allstand for? Their answers will give you a child-centered focus to begin your talk.

Simply listing the character traits of your family -- "We stand for honesty, empathy, and tolerance" --isn't enough. Here are some examples of what your family might stand for, and some questions that willdeepen your discussion.

Empathy

  • What do you think this Native American proverb means: "You can't understand another person until you walk a few miles in their moccasins"?
  • What's the difference between pity and empathy? Give family members an opportunity to think aboutanother person's feelings. For example, what do they think Grandma is feeling now that she has had tomove into a nursing home? What is she most worried about? What would make her most happy? Or, have themconsider how volunteering at a food pantry teaches empathy.
  • Loyalty

  • Can you strongly disagree about something with your parents or your friends and still be loyal to them?
  • Would it be disloyal to tell a friend's parents that she has a problem with stealing? Should a loyal friend ever say anything that could get his friend in trouble?
  • Do you have to obey everything your coach tells you to do in order to be a loyal team member?
  • Courage

  • Does having courage mean that you'll try anything?
  • What's the best example of courage that you've personally seen, heard, and read about?
  • When have you had to show the most courage?
  • Read Carleton Kendrick's bio.

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