Children & Families

November 13, 2002 2 min read

Values Gaps

Parents say they are falling short when it comes to teaching their children “absolutely essential values,” concludes a recent survey from Public Agenda, a nonpartisan opinion-research organization.

A report on the findings, titled “A Lot Easier Said Than Done,” says that 83 percent of the parents polled said they believe it’s vital to teach their children to learn self-control and self-discipline.

Download a free copy of the report, “A Lot Easier Said Than Done: Parents Talk About Raising Children in Today’s America,” from Public Agenda, until Nov. 27, 2002 (Requires free registration). After that, the complete report will only be available in print for $10, plus $2 shipping and handling. Or read the special Web edition. (Downloading the full report requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

But only 34 percent said they believe they have succeeded in teaching their children those abilities.

The results also show that 82 percent of parents believe it’s “absolutely essential” to teach their children always to do their best in school, but only 50 percent of all respondents say they believe their children have learned that lesson.

The survey revealed other gaps.

For instance, 91 percent of the respondents think it is “absolutely essential” that their children be honest and truthful. But just over half the random sample of 1,607 parents or guardians—55 percent— said they had succeeded in teaching those values.

The telephone survey, conducted between July 31 and Aug. 15 by the New York City-based organization, polled parents of children ages 5 to 17. The survey has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

“Parents today are struggling very hard to raise respectful, responsible, well-behaved children and are remarkably frank in this survey in assessing their own kids’ shortcomings,” Deborah Wadsworth, the president of Public Agenda, said in a press release.

She added that parents clearly indicate how difficult it is to shield their children from the temptations and negative influences that are prevalent in society.

Ninety percent of the respondents said that the bad language and adult content that children see during prime-time television gets worse every year.

About half the parents surveyed—48 percent—said they worry that their children watch too much television. But the other 52 percent said excessive TV viewing wasn’t a problem in their households.

At least half those surveyed said they worry “a lot” about protecting their children from drugs and alcohol and about someone physically harming or kidnapping their children.

More than a third said they worry “a lot” about negative messages in the media, about paying bills and making ends meet, and about juggling the demands of work and family.

—Linda Jacobson

A version of this article appeared in the November 13, 2002 edition of Education Week