Personal Standards

Teaching kids about Personal Standards may be one of the most important skills we can offer to them.  They must have a solid idea of where they stand with many events that they can become a part of without even realizing how quickly situations arise.  For example, a friend approaches your child as they head to the next class and says, ‘let’s skip this next class.’  In a  moment of weakness and not wanting to disappoint their friend, they accept.  Now they have truancy to explain to parents, missed homework and assignments, and at times, a situation like this can unfold into something involving the legal system.

It happens fast, and kids can make the wrong choice, just like ourselves, without some personal standards from which to operate.

Take some time today to speak with your kids about the personal standards of your family.  What counts?  What is important?  How do you want them to protect your family name?  Talk with them about non-negotiables in terms of behaviors.  Get them to agree and add some of their own.  It might be as simple as Be Safe, Be Responsible, and Be Respectful.   A personal standard that I adopted in my teen years was to Always Be My Best in everything I did.  I know that I fell short of that, but the standard was always in the back of my mind. It helped me to rise to a higher level when confronted with distracting situations.

You may choose, Integrity, Courage, Be a Leader, Be a good listener, Be a good communicator.  Whatever you choose, please spend some time discussing each one and come back and visit it frequently.  I like to choose one for the week and have kids concentrate on practicing that one personal standard.  In the evenings, when they get home, they discuss how it went.  Ask questions like Did they have a chance to use it?  What was the situation?  How did it help you to make a good choice?

Here is an exercise on Personal Standards that will assist with this process.

Think of yourself as an adult reflecting on your adolescent years (eleven to nineteen).  You remember many situations where you had to exercise your unwavering commitment to yourself and your family.

  • How will it feel to know you made good decisions when you could have easily chosen otherwise?
  • What strengths did you draw upon for those decisions?

There are two critical points to be made here.  The first is to decide upfront on the behaviors you will not compromise.  In other words, don’t get yourself into difficult situations in the first place.  The second important point is to recognize that once you are in difficult situations, have a plan already in place–an agreement if you will–about how to get out of them quickly.

The next step is to read my series, What Kids Need, where I discuss Personal Standards as part of a series, What Kids Need: Personal Standards – Dr. Rich Patterson (

You may be interested in reading this site which lists 36 Examples of Personal Standards, 36 Examples of Personal Standards – Simplicable.


Yours for better parenting,