Values Are More Than Words: Driving Your Discipline Style

kenney-familycoachI generally think of values as nouns, often single words that say a lot: integrity, honesty, responsibility, education, athleticism, kindness and respect.  I imagine you are teaching your children values each day. What words come to your mind?

Out of a conversation of values, the two I hear most often are love and respect. Your family might also talk often about respect. Now you might be wondering, okay how do we talk with our kids about our family values.

Here are some other questions to help guide your conversation with your child, age 3 to 8 (for your youngest children, you may need to adjust the wording). Pictures are a great way to involve your little ones. You can cut out pictures from magazines that represent what matters most to them.

  • What kind of person do you want to be?
  • What kinds of things do you notice about other people?
  • Does getting good grades matter to you?
  • Does helping others matter to you?
  • Do you like to be a leader or are you more comfortable following along?
  • Does making a mark in the world matter to you?

You're a bright parent, what questions come to your mind?

Values lead to effective discipline

I want to just touch on discipline at this point – we’ll go much deeper into discipline and non-compliance later on. But I’d like you to be thinking about the fact that your discipline style is closely connected to your values. Your values are your reference for positive behavioral expectations in your family.  Your family values reflect the mission you have established. Your values also reinforce your family rules, the second pillar upon your home’s strong foundation.

Once you have identified and confirmed your family values as a whole, then discipline becomes clear, consistent and predictable. You now have specific values you can refer to, which your children will understand and recognize: “We value kindness, so we help our brothers and sisters when they need us.”… “We value respect, so we do as Daddy asks the first time.”

When you have a situation where children do not live by expected family values, rather than moving directly to punishment or confrontation, really knowing what your values are gives you the tools to guide the situation in a better way. Your goal now is to help your children to develop skills and habits that are values-based.

Here are some values-based responses that a parent might offer in the midst of a mini-crisis:

  • “Hey, we said we’re a family who respects one another with our words.”
  • “Calling your sister stupid doesn’t sound respectful.”
  • “What’s another way you can you tell your sister you are not happy with her behavior?”
  • “Do you want to ask her to do something differently?”

Are you struck by how powerful short direct sentences can be?  Imagine using these sentences in a discussion with your children. Can you see what’s happening with this kind of dialogue, where you turn the situation from a potential screaming match to something else entirely? Where will these sentences lead your family? Directly to respect, honor and love.

This approach allows you to think, reflect and choose, rather than just to react impulsively and emotionally. You are using your mission and values in a consistent way that gives each child a feeling of security within the family. The playing field is the same for everyone. It means we’ve all agreed on what we value. And that will begin to color the way you act with one another and in the world outside the family.

See your family is changing already. You are becoming a proactive parent who uses your values to define how you expect you and your children to live and behave. If you wish, take some time to brainstorm as a couple or as a family about what you value, what you really care about. Now, you are living The Method.

Excerpted from The Family Coach Method by Lynne Kenney, PsyD

Lynne Kenney, Psy.D., is a mother of two, a practicing pediatric psychologist (15 years) in Scottsdale, AZ, and the creator of The Family Coach Method. She has advanced fellowship training in forensic psychology and developmental pediatric psychology from Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Harbor-UCLA/UCLA Medical School. Dr. Kenney is currently a featured expert in Parents magazine and Working Mother magazine. Since 2006, she has co-produced three television shows and six DVDs with Baby First TV, and hosted the Baby First TV show “Baby Basics.” Dr. Kenney is a recognized “mom social media expert,” a featured contributor on and the host of The Family Coach Solution Studio on BlogTalk Radio. Her Better Living Content has appeared on ABC, the Montel Williams Show, and various child/family websites (including Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens ). Dr. Kenney is a sought-after speaker nationally, and a respected consultant to The International Nanny Association and The National Head Start Association, for whom she was National Ambassador, 2007. Her book, The Family Coach Method, will be published in October 2009! Read more about Dr. Kenney at

One Response to Values Are More Than Words: Driving Your Discipline Style

  1. Teaching Children Values on October 13, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. Teaching your children values is the most important thing you can do as a parent. Instilling values into your child from an early age allows them to grow up with a solid moral background, and better prepares them for the rigors of growth and progression.

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