I would hope that teaching values to their children would be a high priority for any parent that reads this. I know for Amber and I, we talked at length at what our expectations would be once we had a child.
At the top of our list of things we wanted to instill in Kaitlyn was discipline. Not discipline in the sense that she cannot do anything out of fear of a spanking, but discipline in how she handles herself. At an early age, and well before her Asperger’s diagnosis, we set certain expectations for Kaitlyn. Nothing unreasonable, just small things that were not negotiable. Things like listening to us the first time we say something, especially out in public; we wanted to make sure that she knew we are in charge, mostly because of safety. We have been pretty successful, to the point where she rarely, if ever, leaves our sight if we are at the mall or a store.
Respect is important to us, and we make sure that it is important to Kaitlyn as well. It seems obvious, but saying “please” and “thank you” are things that we drilled into her head, and continue to reinforce. Being polite and having manners are important. Another way we are teaching Kaitlyn about respecting others is to have her use “sir” and “ma’am” when responding to adults; this has been somewhat of a point of contention to some, but we are solid in our resolve that she be respectful in her exchanges with adults. Along those lines, we try to make sure that she address adults as “Mr.” or “Miss” and then use their name; whether it is an adult friend of ours or one of the college girls at Miracle, the expectation remains the same. While we have been more flexible with this, we still expect her to refer to adults this way a majority of the time.
Sharing. As an only child, our teaching moments on sharing come mainly from Kaitlyn being with the Sprague boys. We try to make sure that she knows that when she is with them, she is expected to share. And the boys are great about sharing with her, so she is seeing reciprocation in sharing, which can only serve as a positive. At home, she is expected to share with us. Several times, she has referred to the iPad or our computer as hers, to which I have had to remind her that those belong to Amber and I and we allow her to use them.
Giving is a value that we are just now getting to teaching Kaitlyn. Amber and I try to be giving with our time, home, and money whenever possible, but have come to realize that Kaitlyn does not have too many opportunities to give. We recently began to allow her to put money in the offering plate at church, but that had been in the form of change from Amber’s purse. We realized that maybe this was not the best way to teach her giving because she was just serving as an intermediary for change that was Amber’s. Today, we gave her a choice before we left; she could either give nothing (no change from Amber’s purse), or she could give some of her own money. We explained to her that once she gave of that money, she could not have it back, and she said she understood. Today, Kaitlyn gave $5 of her own money at church. We were very proud of her choice. I am thinking of, and really leaning, toward using an idea from Randy Alcorn’s book Money, Possessions, and Eternity and get three empty jars, one for giving, one for saving, and one for spending; then, she would be able to allocate her money and know where it was going, but the kicker here is that there is no moving money into spending from giving or saving, but she can move money from spending to the other two.
One value that I know that I am solely responsible for teaching Kaitlyn is how a woman is to be treated. She will learn how she should be treated by the way that I treat Amber, by the way that I treat her, and by how other women are treated. It is my responsibility to teach her about being respected and valued, and it is one that I do not take lightly.
I feel like we have a good foundation in instilling values in Kaitlyn that will help her continue to be an amazing person. It is incumbent upon Amber and I to continually reinforce what we have taught, and introduce more principles.