One of the greatest gifts you can give a child is a chance to learn and practice strong personal and family values. Last April we wrote about the importance of helping children learn values. Many of us understand that it’s critical that we help our children learn values from an early age. One thing we touched on in the last article was the use of “modeling” to help children learn values. When your children, or foster children, see you doing something, oftentimes they log that in their brain and begin doing it themselves at some point in the future. The repetition of modeling over time will help instill core values in your children. That said, there are a number of strategies that you can employ for teaching personal and family values to children. In this article we’ll explore those strategies in more detail.

teach kids to be polite

Values Strategies which are compatible with the Teaching Family Model can be broken out into 5 core components, which are:

  1. Relationship Development
  2. Values Introduction
  3. Recognition
  4. Guidance
  5. Self-Determination

Now that we know which strategies to use for teaching personal and family values to children, let’s dig into how to apply each one of them to your daily life.

Relationship Development

The most important thing that you can do to help model relationship development for young children and pre-adolescents is to spend quality time together with them. For adolescents this is accomplished through open and honest communication. Far too often we let our busy lives, technology, and other “trivial” things get in the way of spending real quality time with our children. If you want to help your children learn personal and family values, it starts with relationship development. Turn the TV off and have a conversation.

Values Introduction

Once relationships are formed with your children, you can begin inserting values information into your conversations. In order for children to learn personal and family values, those values must be explained to them. Start by defining the value you wish to instill. For example, if you are trying to teach your children to be polite, explain what it means to be polite, provide examples, and then model it for them. Be sure to give reasons why it’s important to be polite, so that your children understand how it impacts them, and others.


Once you’ve explained the different values that you’re hoping to pass along to your children or foster children, it’s time to start helping them recognize when they should use those values. Also, if they use the values on their own, it’s IMPERATIVE that you praise or compliment your child for doing so. Young children and pre-adolescents prefer praise and adolescents prefer compliments.


When personal and family values are not used in a situation that calls for them, or if they are used incorrectly, it’s important that you provide guidance to your children. Here are the steps to follow when providing guidance to children:

  1. Empathize
  2. State the values conflict
  3. Give a reason
  4. Redirect or correct
  5. Optional consequence (compensation or remediation)


Self-Determination helps to equip the child/adolescent with the skills to recognize and act on opportunities that enable the child to make responsible decisions in areas that affect his or her life.  These skills require that the child consider his or her personal values when making decisions or choices, problem solving, or expressing concerns.

Provide your children with developmentally appropriate freedoms and responsibilities so that they will learn to put their values into practice when making everyday choices and decisions that effect their lives. In doing so you will strengths his/her values of responsibility, trust, honesty, friendship, loyalty, restraint, integrity and more.

Teaching Personal and Family Values to Children

By following the steps above, and making your children a priority, you will be much more effective in teaching personal and family values to them. Modeling is important. Your children pick up on everything that you do. Be sure to practice what you preach or your children will begin to pick up negative habits. Teaching values to children is critically important to their development. Without a core set of values, children will have a difficult time in life building and maintaining relationships with others. It’s up to you to ensure this does not happen. Your children can learn. Be sure that you’re there to help them do so.