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A retrospective on our book 'Teaching Children Values'
"Teaching Your Children Values" is by Linda and Richard Eyres and was published in 1993. - photo by Linda and Richard Eyre
We want to tell you a story a personal story about our book "Teaching Your Children Values," about how it came about, and about what that process says about our country, our values system and the challenge all parents have in helping their children to adopt the values of their family culture rather than the values of their peer culture, or the Internet culture, or the media and celebrity culture.

Our first few parenting and family books were published by Deseret Book and its Shadow Mountain imprint, but during one publicity tour, the president of Random House saw us interviewed on a San Francisco TV station, liked our approach and ended up buying the publication rights of our existing parenting books and extending a contract to us for future books in the family genre.

We had done three books in a series that was published in the late 1980s: "Teaching Children Joy," "Teaching Children Responsibility" and "Teaching Children Sensitivity." Our editors at Random House, under their Ballantine imprint, suggested that we do a fourth book in the series on teaching children values. They felt parents were at their wits' end concerning how they could help their children follow their time-honored values rather than the emerging false values of the world.

We dutifully went to work on the book and ended up with a format of 12 values that we felt were universal, with the idea that families could work on one of the values each month of the year. The senior editor at Random House loved the idea and liked the 12 values we had chosen: honesty, respect, love, unselfishness, kindness, courage, peaceability, self-reliance, self-discipline, fidelity and chastity, dependability, and justice and mercy.

Or, more accurately, she liked 11 of the 12 values we had chosen. She didnt like month 10, which was the value of chastity and fidelity. She felt they were "old-fashioned words that were likely to make a lot of parents feel uneasy and guilty.

We asked if changing the wording or the terminology could help, but she said no, she felt that chapter had to come out. Shocked, we asked if she really thought we could in good conscience publish a book on values that omitted any reference to moral values in a world filled with sexual dangers and dilemmas. She said yes, that was what they intended to do, and she added that they would not publish the book unless that chapter was removed.

We tried to be cordial and to discuss it further, but we ended up walking out on one of the largest publishers in the world. We found ourselves standing outside on the sidewalk of Sixth Avenue in New York, wondering what we had done and wondering if we had just ended our publishing career.

It took our literary agent nearly five years to line us up with another national publisher, this time one that liked and accepted the book as written, with all 12 chapters intact. The new publisher was Simon and Schuster, and the timing was better in every way. Parents had become ever more concerned with the growing dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, with pornography and sexual exploitation, and with recreational sex among younger and younger children. To make a long story short, the book, which was was published in 1993, became a best-seller, and the chapter on chastity and fidelity was, from what we could gather, one of the most popular chapters in the entire book.

We learned several things from that experience. One was that while basic values never change, their popularity or public acceptance waxes and wanes within our culture. Another thing we learned was that children dont learn values by osmosis and that while example helps, even the best-meaning parents need some kind of program or organized, deliberate approach to teach basic values to their kids.

The focus-on-one-particular-value-each-month approach caught on because it was simple and didnt demand that parents try to think about and teach all the values all the time.

But the third thing we learned from this first part of the story is that right is right and, eventually, right is might. If we had caved in and published the book minus that chapter, it would never have become a best-seller. The timing was off and the book would not have been complete. We would not have felt right about it, and neither would its readers. Nor would it have spawned a whole program for teaching monthly values to children throughout the world (see our website at

We plan to share the rest of the story in a column in the near future. Take heart that the influence parents can have on their childrens values is greater than the influence of peers, media or what's found on the Internet. But it takes parental focus, effort and dedication.
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