What are the values important in your family?

The corporate world goes crazy talking about their “values”. Do we speak enough of it at home? [ Day 1 of “One Day One Blog”]

Consider these two different scenes

Scene 1: The year is 2015. I am a guest speaker at one of the Engineering colleges in Kerala. It is their Tech fest and I am invited to speak on the topic of “Entrepreneurship”. The other invited speakers include CEO of a startup incubator, a student startup founder and the MD of a large FMCG which started as a regional player from Kerala and now has an international presence.

Part of my speech is focused on what is important to our company and what binds the 4 co-founders together. It is the value system we built. I speak of ethics and integrity and how these values keep us together no matter what other differences of opinion we may have on how to run a startup.

Now the Chief Guest takes the stage. As he shares his life story with us, he stops and points to me and says. “ I was very happy to hear a startup which is as young as Fourth Ambit reflecting on the importance of values and how it keeps the bond of the founders”. Values are critical not just for a family but for any form of human collaboration that intends to do good.

His speech made a huge impression on me. And it also made me realize how little we speak of values.

Scene 2: March 2017. Chandu and I were visiting a group of friends from our college days, some of whom we haven’t met in over a decade. The striking similarity in this group is that all the couples ( except Chandu and I) have kids who are in the 2+ age group. In the course of the evening, when there was a lull in the frenzy of catching up, one of the mothers asked about admissions to kindergarten.

This being a pain point for the parents around the table, everyone nose dived into this topic. Being the silent spectator, I understood that there was a particular school in Vikhroli(Mumbai) which was a HOT favourite among the parents. The more I listened, a picture started to form in my head.

The school under discussion was a “no-frills” school. There are no international study tours in the curriculum, no special “Nanny-care” for each child, no 5 star catered pantries for the little ones, and I think no air conditioned classrooms, too.

What this school offered was a value system that the parents identified with. What they had grown up with. And despite having very fancy schools they could afford to get their children into ( The monthly income of each of these families ranged from 5000 USD per month to 10,000 USD on the conservative side), these parents wanted a school whose “value-system” they identified with.

Having attuned myself to never judge people based on the choices they make — no matter how different they are from mine — I was pleasantly surprised to see these choices they were making for the children. Luxurious comfort ( I mean, C’mon…everyone wants the best for their kids), peer pressure and bragging rights on which school is more fancier, etc was cast aside for a foundation that focused on values.

This led me to reflect on the values we want to pass onto our children. I did a quick dip survey among my friends on the “Top 3 Values” they wanted to pass onto their little ones. This is what I found.

The Chart Toppers

1. Honesty

Of course, this one was a clear no-brainer. I mean, which parent wouldn’t want his or her offspring to be not honest? But if this is a value we are all taught at home, then why do we see so much dishonesty in the world around us? Clearly, we are not being taught well on this one. And just by that reason alone, I am so happy to see this one top the charts.

2. Kindness & Respect — to people and animals

I am clubbing a very large list of values under this heading. For example, one of my closest friends has two little boys. Her way of ensuring that her children imbibe the value of “respect to all genders” is to equip them to handle all household tasks such as cooking, cleaning, helping out in general. So that they will never hear the dialogue “ this is a woman’s job” from their house....and by the time they hear this from the world outside, the parents would have instilled “free thinking” in them to question these notions.

It just warms my heart to see two young parents teaching their 2 year old to be kind to animals. The little girl’s love for her pet dog stands testimony to the fact that the parents are succeeding.

Respect and Kindness also means respecting the choices of others and not to judge their life choices.

I make these unconditional promise to all my nieces and nephews ( a tribe that is constantly growing, BTW). You can choose to be a gypsy, a homosexual, convert your religion, drink ( but not drink and drive) and I will always continue to support you.

When you do go wrong as you sometimes will, and want to get back onto track, you should know I will be there to lend a helping hand

Now this is me. But what I see in my friends and peers is the effort to teach their children these same values. So that they don’t judge their friends and peers tomorrow. Tolerance — That is exactly what the world needs today. And tomorrow.

3. Integrity — many called it trustworthiness

Every induction, every vision/mission has “Integrity” splashed across their corporate PPTs. But for some reason, this is not something we consciously talk about at home. I guess it is often because we think being honest takes care of integrity too.

But I look at the two qualities to be very different. In this context, I look at integrity as the opposition to hypocrisy. It is all great to have a list of highfalutin values. But if you don’t act according to these values, it doesn’t mean much, rt?

Let me illustrate with the help of 2 examples:

  1. An almost regular occurrence that I see in middle class India — inter-caste marriage. We never criticize the same in peer settings as we don’t want to appear as though we are not progressive. But this is still such a pain for people when their son or daughter marries outside their religion/caste. Why?
  2. When you claim that children should be allowed to pursue their dreams in a public forum, and then “gently guide” the child to take up Science and Engineering, you are also subtly telling them that you don’t need to practice what you preach.

Confidence, fearlessness, empathy, an attitude to help others were some of the popular ones that came up in my survey.

Parenting is easily the most difficult “Job” out there. It is challenging at the best of times. And moreover my friends, I know the difficult years are yet to come when teenage tantrums start kicking in; but be assured you are doing a great job - building a generation of kind, honest and confident human beings who will make us all proud with their integrity.

Is there a particular value that you are keen for your child to imbibe? If so, please do share here. I would love to know that.

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Friends, this is the Day 1 of my odyssey to write one blog EVERYDAY for the month of May 2017. “One Day, One Blog

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