The value of values and the outdoors

Hi All

I’ve heard it said many times. I’ve said it myself plenty! “I want my kids to grow up with the same values I have.” The problem is, when we dig down to it, it’s sometimes quite difficult to articulate those values.

And certainly passing them on to our children is not something we have devoted time to or set about doing deliberately.

It’s true, that our children absorb an awful lot about values from what they see, watch and contextualise about our behaviour. But is there a point at which this transfer of values from generation to generation becomes more just good luck rather than good management?

Imparting values to your children is possibly one of the most important attributes that we can equip our children with as they transition from childhood through to adulthood. These attributes are too important to leave to chance or misinterpretation. We need to be deliberate about how we approach the teaching of values to our kids. But how do we go about that? It’s not exactly standard dinner table conversation. Especially if there is more than one child and they are spread across a range of ages. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ discussion by any stretch of the imagination. So how can we create the ideal situation where the transfer of this knowledge isn’t forced? How can we make it feel more natural?

I firmly believe that there is no better place for these value discussions and behaviour modelling to take place than in the outdoors. There are two reasons why this is the case. For a start, if you take your child out for a bushwalk or a canoe paddle or any other outdoor pursuit you have immediately created a level playing field between your world’s. It’s not school for your child and it’s not house, chores or work for you. It’s a common world of discovery that you can share with your child. And in this new world come a set of rules, guidelines and parameters that are unique. You are setting up a mini community where everything has to get done a different way for life to carry on. Particularly if it’s a multi-day trip; there’s camp to set up, there is gear to look after, there is work to be done to make sure dinner is ready, cleanup, etc. This takes both you and your child into a fresh relationship that perhaps hasn’t happened before (or if you have done it before, no matter how many times, a refreshing of these rules away from home and school). As such, the potential for learning is increased. One of the best catalysts for learning is transferring existing skills into a new environment and adapting them to suit. There is also the need to acquire new skills for the new outdoor environment and/or activity.

The second reason is that it allows you to talk about the event in preparation and lay some groundwork for the discussion prior to the activity. Rather than just be some random conversation in the midst of the routine of daily life, you have created a situation whereby the rules need to change and you can talk about that in your preparation leading up to the activity. You’ll need to talk about all sorts of things relating to getting ready for the camp. And a big part of that can be a discussion around values.

The outdoors is such a great medium to teach in. Leave all the routine and baggage of day to day life behind. Step into a new ‘common world’ with your children.

There are many values and we all make decisions from day-to-day based on those values. Many of the differences that we in enjoying our community (or can be negatively applied to create fraction) are as a result of not having the same values for everyone. But there is generally considered a core set of values that most of us as humans uphold more than others. And these are what’s referred to as the Cardinal Values.  The ‘For Dummies’ website defines them as follows;

  • Wisdom (or Prudence) is basically practical common sense. It’s saying or doing the proper thing, at the proper time, and in the appropriate manner. It’s also the ability to know and judge whether to say something or do nothing at all.
  • Justice is the value that seeks to promote fair play. It’s the desire and resolve to give each person his due. It demands that you reward goodness and punish evil. Justice can be one of three different types:
    • Commutative justice is based on the principle of quid pro quo, which is Latin for this for that. Commutative justice requires, for example, that a customer pay a fair price for worthwhile goods.
    • Distributive justice involves the relationship between one and many — between an individual and a group — a person and the government, for example.
    • Social justice concerns the relationships between individuals and groups between one another and everyone. The common good and equal treatment are the cornerstones of social justice.
  • Moderation (or Temperance) is the value by which a person uses balance. It’s the good habit that allows a person to relax and have fun without crossing the line and committing sin (Sounds a bit old school, I know).
  • Courage (or Fortitude) is the ability to persevere in times of trial and tribulation — the ability to hang in there when the going gets tough. It’s courage to do the right thing, no matter what the cost.

I’ve had the great fortune to have the outdoors as my classroom for 20 years now. It’s just so powerful.

So in closing, I would encourage any parent to make a deliberate purpose of teaching their children about values and instructing them in the path the parent wishes to see the child grow. And when he/she is older he/she will not depart from that path (paraphrased from Proverbs 22:6).

So how might that look in today’s real world? Patience, my Padowan. More on this topic soon.

In the meantime, Camp in Comfort.

Scottie B

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