As parents, how do we share good values—the stuff of life that really matters—with our teens? We all strive to raise children who are successful, but is there a way to ensure they become decent human beings who are responsible and compassionate? While there’s no formula that guarantees the outcomes we imagine for our kids, there are many ways to help guide them.

Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments

Adolescence is the time when young people start to define their own principles and use them to make complicated decisions when parents aren’t around. What we say and do throughout their lives has a tremendous impact on our children. In fact, the most effective way to share our values is through example. If you want to see honesty, be honest. If you want to see generosity, find ways for your family to volunteer in the community. Talk about courage, kindness, and perseverance when you hear about other students who are struggling or who may be demonstrating those traits. Help your child think beyond themselves—nothing is more critical as they form their own values.

Start With the Basics: Chores and Money Management

If you want to instill responsibility, help your teen learn basic life skills. If they haven’t had any chores up to this point in their lives, now is a great time to start. Maybe responsibility starts with giving them a clothing budget to practice money management or having them prepare their favorite meal for the family. Show them how to wash laundry. They need to learn these skills to be a good roommate or to live independently, and they will greatly benefit from accomplishing even these small tasks.

Praise their efforts, encourage them to get through the rough moments (dirty laundry isn’t fun!), and watch as they improve their skills, take on more responsibility, and feel even better about themselves. Learning life skills and accepting responsibility are important, but what is even more valuable is the self-confidence your teens will gain as they master these skills, feel more independent, and become sure of their own values.

Focusing Outward, Not Inward

Responsibility can extend beyond the family, and children of all ages benefit from community involvement. Here’s how:

  • Helps them find their place in the world
  • Develops understanding and compassion
  • Emphasizes the shared values in our diverse society
  • Allows them to focus outward instead of inward, overcome challenges, and increase gratitude

It Takes a Village

Here are some ways to get involved:

  • Encourage your child to find a cause that they are passionate about; not only will they be able to connect with like-minded people, but they will also create a positive online social presence.
  • Volunteer at a local nonprofit organization—family homeless shelter, food bank, animal shelter, or senior center.
  • Help a local family in need.
  • Get involved with a community garden and grow food for others.

Teach by Doing

As a parent, you can be a good role model by:

  • Helping a local neighbor in need
  • Volunteering for a community project
  • Participating in civic or nonprofit organizations

The Gift of Giving

Our values have the greatest effect on our children. People who have strong guiding principles are generally happier, more successful in their relationships with others, and more likely to make positive contributions by reaching beyond themselves into their community. There’s nothing better or more relevant than instilling good values on the next generation—their happiness and success depend on it.

For more helpful information, please visit .