Our most recent Biggest Job webinar was on ‘Principles over Rules.’ (Hopefully, you joined us for that!) One of the questions that was asked was “At what age should my children come up with a set of principles?”

Several years ago I did a series of Parenting: The Biggest Job workshops with a Montessori School in Denver. The parents who came to the workshops had children who were preschool age up to 4th grade. During one session a mother shared that, after the session on Principles over Rules, her 3-year-old saw her get angry with the girl’s older brother. “Mommy,” she said, “you were not respectful to Adam. We need to have a family meeting.”

Whether or not the girl was aware that respect was one of the family principles, she knew what respect meant, and she knew when it was not being used. Her parents had included the word respect in their language with her, and she was aware of when it was and wasn’t in practice in others. Her parents taught her this by expecting her to be respectful and by modeling this with each other and with their children.

The short answer to the question above is: It’s never too early to start talking about principles in the family. We encourage expectant parents to discuss and agree on the principles they’re going to raise their children with even before the children arrive. This puts parents on the same page and gives them a common language to use with their children, beginning with their first words. It may seem corny to be talking to your six-month-old about respect, kindness, humility, and courage, but why not? Make it part of your daily routine and expectations of yourself, and you’ll be surprised how it “sinks in” with the kids.

And remember – we set our principles, and we live our lives trying to live up to them. It’s not like we have them perfectly in order in our own lives and then we teach them to our children. It’s important to show our kids that we’re on this journey with them… that being an adult doesn’t mean we are perfect.