Here is a curated list of the eleven most important values that I would like my daughter to appreciate by the time she turns 11.
1. Time: Most regrets we have later in our lives are about how we used our time in the past. It’s the most limited resource each of us has. An appreciation of time, its effective use cultivated earlier in life, gives the child a head start over many others.
Time is also the greatest destroyer, a ravenous mouth, consuming everything, including pain. That’s why we must give time the respect and treatment it truly deserves. We need to learn not to fritter it away ourselves and then set an example for our children. Teach children to become a master of time and not its victim.
2. Non-injury: Non-injury in thought, word and of course action. It is relatively easier to practice physical non-injury and exclusive focus on it amounts to the denial of subtle acts of injury. By our own example, we can teach children to think carefully about the impact of their words on others. It is said that the way we, as parents speak with our children, that tone becomes their inner voice. So, before you snap at your child in a fit of anger, think again. This voice may stay will them for the rest of their lives.
3. Simplicity: In this strange complex world of ours, simplicity can come surprisingly natural to us if we want it. Simplicity is beautiful, is relaxing. Simplicity is staying in the present and not making things complicated. Simplicity is enjoying a plain mind and intellect. Simplicity is freedom from excess. It is permission to simply “be.”Simplicity is appreciating the small things in life.
Simplicity helps create sustainable development. Simplicity teaches us economy — how to use our resources wisely, keeping future generations in mind. Simplicity avoids waste, avoids value clashes complicated by greed, fear, peer pressure, and a false sense of identity.
4. Love: To understand the value of love means to understand that, ‘ I am loveable and I have the capacity to love. I have love inside.’ Love is caring, sharing, being kind and being close. Love makes us feel safe and needed. When there’s lots of love inside, anger runs away.
5. Cooperation: Nobody in this world today can be truly independent. In fact, I believe true independence is impossible, it has always been. Mere survival today requires that we depend on farmers to grow food, the traders to supply it to the market, and the shops to distribute it to us. Same with water and so many other things we deem essential for survival, health and security.
Understanding that one can achieve so much more by cooperating than by striving alone is the key to learning. As a matter of fact, most of the human achievements in the sphere of arts, science, technology and commerce are products of Cooperation on a larger scale.
6. Hygiene: This involves cultivating an appreciation and preference for cleanliness and orderliness. This really needs to happen at four levels viz. our surroundings, personal hygiene, mental and sensory hygiene and finally intellectual hygiene.
My guru once said, “Even as every day while I go about my business, a little dust settles on my skin, some dirt smudges my clothes, my desk becomes littered, my mind gathers dust in my transactions with people. Smudges of envy settle, a spot of exasperation lands, streaks of possessiveness appear and overall fine dust of self-criticism, guilt and self-condemnation spread. Each day, until my false identification with the mind, dissolves and self-knowledge arises, the mind must be cleaned. What is the detergent for the mind? It is applying the opposite thought. It should be applied even though my negative attitude seems justified by circumstances. ” This skill of internal hygiene comes by training and discipline.
7. Self-control: It is the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviour in the face of temptations and impulses. Self-control is necessary for regulating one’s behaviour in order to achieve specific goals. It is the ability to give up on small, short gains for reaping larger, long term benefits. Or it can also mean tolerating short term discomfort to attain comfort in the longer term. It can apply to all areas of achievement like health, diet, exercise, hard work, savings and so on.
8. Persistence: It is an age-old adage that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. There are also aphorisms like ‘try till you succeed’ or ‘never give up’ that reinforce the value of persisting in our endeavours till we meet a certain level of success that we can be content with.
9. Rectitude / Congruence: It means cultivating uprightness or straightness in behaviour. It requires bringing an alignment between thought, word and deed. Only a mind which is free from cognitive dissonance or inner conflict can cultivate rectitude.
We can also include the value of truthfulness under this value. It means being able to freely speak the truth and stand by the truth as far as possible and in a way that it doesn’t cause mental injury to another person who doesn’t deserve it.
10. Respect for teachers: This involves developing not just a sense of respect but also a deep sense of gratitude for the teachers that contribute to our inner growth. This respect is elevated to the level of even reverence for our spiritual teachers or Guru.
11. Responsibility: This is one of the hardest to learn values later in life. Being responsible means you do the things you are expected to do, irrespective of whether you are in the mood for it and accept the consequences (results) of your actions. For children, responsibility can mean caring, taking care of things, helping others as per capacity, doing their share of work and doing their bit to make this world a better place.
In the end, remember that the best way to teach values is through your own example. Nothing beats that one!