What Are Your Student’s Values?

Last week’s blog discussed ways you can support the students in your life through discovering their natural talents. You can find that post here. This second blog in the series shares how to guide and advise students according to their values, rather than our own.

Helen Keller once said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision.”

Values are your judgment on what’s most important to you in life.  Knowing your values:

  • Guides your boundaries and helps you stick to them.
  • Helps you create a vision for your life.
  • Aids decision-making aligned to your vision.
  • Keeps you focused on what’s important to you.

Despite the paramount importance of values, many people go through life neither exploring their values, nor intentionally aligning their lives to their values.

We have an opportunity to mentor and guide the young people in our lives to uncover their values earlier in life.

It’s no wonder so many of us have landed in jobs where we don’t feel honored. Our values don’t align with the work we’re doing, the culture we are working in, or the manager we’re working for.

Values are also critical for relationship choices. We tend to emphasize the role personality plays in conflict, yet incompatible values are a bigger deal-breaker in relationships. Helping a young person understand their values will equip him or her to make wiser decisions in their relationships, as well as their career.

Be mindful of giving advice aligned to your personal values

Before we look at how to help guide conversations about values, there is one important caveat: Be mindful of giving advice aligned to your personal values.

Because our values dictate what is most important to us, it is not sustainable to be in situations or relationships where our values are consistently violated.

Values are also deeply personal and vary from person to person. Our advice is often rooted in our own values. If your child has different values than you, which they certainly will, advice might not resonate, or serve him or her well.

For example, as your child starts thinking about careers, if you value security and stability, your advice will stem from those values. Perhaps you might steer him or her away from taking risks that he or she is comfortable taking.

If your child values adventure and challenge, advice based on playing it safe is unlikely to lead to decisions contributing to greater satisfaction and happiness.

Values Discussion

Set aside time to have a conversation with your child about a time they felt happy, satisfied, or proud of an accomplishment.

Why did that situation lead them to feel happy, satisfied, or proud?

“Why” questions such as, Why was that important to you?, help uncover the underlying value. Some example values are:

  • Making a difference
  • Growth
  • Responsibility
  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Achievement
  • Love/Connection
  • Usefulness
  • Expertise
  • Faith
  • Spirituality
  • Creativity

Consider your own values and share an appropriate story with your child of a time you were in a situation that violated your values and what you learned, or a time you made a decision based on your values.

Why Knowing Your Student’s Values Matters

A few years ago, I completed a values exercise with my son before he went to college. I learned two of his top values are trust and loyalty.

My son doesn’t like his picture shared on social media, and I realized after our conversation that if I were to take his picture and share it, I would dishonor these values.

While it’s easy to assume he is over-reacting if I post his picture, I’m not going to convince him it’s not a big deal. I could try to persuade him he looked great in the picture, or that our family will enjoy seeing it. In reality, why he doesn’t want it shared isn’t the issue.

From his perspective, he would be focused on the fact I broke his trust and was disloyal to him by not honoring his request. For this reason, I always ask his permission to share his picture online or with others.

When we violate someone’s values and then also try to downplay the impact, we add insult to injury. I am reminded of Romans 12:10 which says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (NIV). One way to honor others above ourselves is to honor their values – what is important to them.

I hope this values exercise invites insightful conversation where you can learn more about your child, and yourself.

In our next blog post, we’ll discuss having conversations about an ideal day at work. Many students think about their major, but not how they want to spend each day.

This post was written by Kristin Sherry.  Kristin is a member of the Crossroads Career Board of Directors.  She is the best selling author of YouMap & Your Team Loves Mondays…Right? She joined our board in 2019 and lives with her husband and 4 kids in North Carolina.


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