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Harriet Frye Heath ’49 On Modeling Values


Mike Kilen


Harriet Frye Heath ’49 didn’t write any trivia about how to save a family in a few easy steps. She tackled the large subject of teaching children values that requires deep thinking by parents, yet gives them a concrete, practical guide to do so. It asks parents to: know their values; understand what they mean; live the values; model the values; realize what a child must know and do to live the value; understand the child’s development in teaching the value; recognize the opportunities to teach them.

Once you’ve indentified a list of values, personal choices that can range from adventurous and accepting to ecologically concerned to empathic, Heath plays out a way to analyze each value in her book, Using Your Values to Raise Your Child to Be an Adult You Admire (Parenting Press Inc., 2000).
Here’s a summary of one value and how to analyze it:
Value: Honesty
Definition: To tell the truth.
Behavior reflecting value: She admits to eating the candy, though she knew she was supposed to wait until after dinner.

Knowledge and skills needed: To be honest, she must be aware of what is happening and remember it accurately.

Insights about the value: Honesty takes courage. It is often difficult to recognize and admit to dishonesty. A child can only develop that courage in an atmosphere of trust.
Teaching the value: Babies need structure and routine, which will give them the basis for which honesty can be built. From ages 2 to 6, honesty can’t be expected because they can’t differentiate between the real and imagined. But parents can give the child a sense of what is real and true by reviewing situations. In school and teen years, follow their activities to know whether they are telling the truth, then listen to understand their side of an issue, without threats of punishment. Don’t label them liars but let them know they are still loved and yet are expected to change the behavior.
Needs: A person may lie to protect herself or a friend from harm or to protect self-esteem. It takes courage to be honest, which is perhaps why the two qualities are linked.
Learning style: Some children do have poor memories and need gentle reminding. Influence of other values: Raw honesty can get in the way of a caring response or cooperative effort. It often collides with the value of being a caring person.
New thinking from analysis: Caring for another or building a cooperative effort may mean using knowledge of the truth to do something differently, without stating the truth or accusing. Knowing your child smoked marijuana, for example, you may decide it is not as important that she admit it as stating your concern for her and what the unsafe activity can mean. So the goal of keeping your child safe may override the value of honesty.

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