Blog: Creating a Value System for your Child

Blog: Creating a Value System for your Child

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

When you are a parent, it’s necessary to understand your own value system. As a parent, your responsibility is to guide your child to the best of your ability. One way you can guide them is by knowing what your values are and teaching them to your child by example. If you don’t know what your values are and what values you want to impart to your child, it is important to sit down and figure them out.

Many of us have an internalized value system that we live by without even realizing it. We may never have had to clarify our values until we become parents and have to make sure our children understand what is important to us. Some of us have never considered the importance of developing a clear system of values until we realize our children need guidelines to help them feel organized and focused.

One of the best set of values I have encountered for helping young children develop into responsible young adults is something called “The Agreement System.” This short set of value statements is the backbone of social and academic interaction at Synergy School in San Francisco, where both of my children went to kindergarten and elementary school.

The following set of values is stated on their website:

Synergy School was founded on the values of encouragement, cooperation, respect, and responsibility.

We strive to provide an environment where children are respected and respectful, where they know they are responsible for themselves, and where they experience logical and natural consequences for their choices and behavior.

The Agreement System is a powerfully positive way of helping children grow and is unique to Synergy. Here are the key elements of the Agreement System that all children are asked to abide by:

I agree to make Synergy a respectful learning community, free of bias, by…

• Keeping a safe place, without prejudices, for everyone’s body
and feelings.
• Respecting all property.
• Participating academically.
• Participating in all other school activities.
• Being in a designated space.
• Agreeing to leave quickly and quietly when waved out.*

*The wave out is a non-verbal, non-punitive tool to help students manage their own behavior. When waved out, a student walks to the classroom door and touches it. This physical interruption allows a child to reset and refocus without drawing attention away from class instruction, discussion, or activities.

This value system is, of course, geared toward a school setting, but it is easy to adapt these values into home life. It is difficult to describe the sense of harmony and community this set of values creates in a group setting. I felt fortunate that my children were exposed to this system of values from such an early age.

This Agreement System helped me as a young mother, helping me focus priorities and set goals at home. It helped me provide a clear system of discipline and to set proper expectations for my children. It is a system that is firm, but not too firm. It helps children know how to engage with others in a successful, caring, and tolerant way. The emphasis on teaching how consequences are related to action provides correction without punishment.

Synergy School has an excellent academic environment, but academics are not the most important issue for young children – in spite of the current drive toward academic performance for young children in many school settings. My children both excelled academically, but I think one of the reasons they did so well academically in their school career was because of the way they were well–organized internally.

The Agreement System helped them develop this internal organization. This is what any good value system does – it provides organization, discipline and clarity without being harsh or overbearing. I believe there is no better education than providing a loving, firm and clearly-defined value system in developing young minds and hearts.

If the values described above don’t match your own set of values, you can use it as a template to help define and articulate your values so you can guide your children in a way that is supportive, encouraging, and in alignment with what is important to you.