When I teach Family Resource Management, I feel it is important to help students understand that their best decisions are reflective of their innermost values. Values have been defined as concepts of the desirable; the concepts we choose, prize and act upon.
Making the best decision requires that our values be at the conscious level, which is sometimes an elusive task.
Throughout my own years of child-rearing, I maintained that my family came first. My husband and I chose our home because the little community park was just over the back fence, complete with sand, swings and a seesaw. The foothills were just half a block away, offering hiking trails, trees, and streams to wade in.
Mom at home was a priority, so I did not work outside the home. But there was a hang-up: When my little boys begged me to go with them to the park and push them in the swings because they were too small to make the swings “go,” I put them off.
I heard myself saying, “Sure, we will all go to the park together — just as soon as I get the kitchen cleaned up.”
Four little boys. What do you suppose they were doing while I washed dishes and cleaned the toilet? I checked on them and found that they were “decorating” the bedrooms. They had dumped several drawers and spread the clothing around. They had also unwrapped at least a dozen rolls of toilet paper and unrolled them, crisscross, over the clothing and draped the ends over the beds.
When they saw me standing in the doorway, one of them flashed a big smile and asked, “Can we go to the park now?”
My answer: “Sure, we will all go to the park together — just as soon as we get these bedrooms cleaned up!”
What did I really value? Underneath it all, I was acting on the value of cleanliness. I acted like I really wanted a clean house more than I wanted to play with my kids.
Recognizing this, I was jolted. I had to ask, “Do I really value waxed floors more than a happy connection with my children?”
If I really valued family, I needed to act like it. If I really wanted a relationship with my teenagers, I needed to develop it while my children were still young.
I needed to close the gap between what I was saying and what I was doing.
Value clarification can begin with something as simple as asking, “What REALLY matters to me?”
Making choices based on what really matters helps assure that our decisions will be good ones.
Joyce Buck is on the faculty of the Weber State University department of child and family studies. The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WSU.