- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2006

When Reston resident Kevin Kraske was in college, he took an ethics course that covered a model of decision-making he felt he should have learned years earlier. In sharing it with his father, he discovered that his father had covered the same model as a young man in officer training. Later, when his brother’s children were born, Mr. Kraske thought there should be a program to help parents convey their unique values to their children and to help the children set good goals and make appropriate choices.

From this starting point, Mr. Kraske began to develop an exciting new tool for families to create a tangible system of defining the values that are important to them, and living them. The program’s name is Believe, Achieve, Live Life With Vision.

This is a kit that consists of a teaching DVD, movable blocks, workbooks, a journal and a decision-making dry-erase board, all of which help define the values and traits that are important to the users and how those values can be lived out in daily life.

In the first step, Believe, each person chooses from seven values and 34 character traits and puts them in order of priority using a set of blocks that then becomes a visible map of each person’s inner beliefs. In the second, the Achieve segment, the users are able to translate their values into practical goals, using a nine-step process, recorded in a journal. The third step, Live Life With Vision, involves practicing this in daily decision-making, with a dry-erase board that can be used on a refrigerator or other public area.

The kit also includes an explanatory DVD and workbooks to help the family master the process. Interestingly, the system can work for adults or help couples define their priorities as well as guide youths. It also can be used as a tool kit to help the entire family or group define family-held values to which all can agree and can be held accountable.

“By using this, parents can engage their children in the process of thinking something through and having a formula for decision-making,” Mr. Kraske explains.

Rather than merely announcing what is expected, such as “Say no to drugs,” this helps teach children the steps to making a healthy decision, together with their parents, and then carrying it out in real-life situations.

“Also, when watching a movie together, the parents can refer to the character traits and say, ‘What traits did Shrek exhibit, and what was valuable to him?’ By discussing these things, kids develop the habit of noticing character and identifying traits in themselves and others — which is a great foundation for life,” Mr. Kraske says.

He points out that key decisions in life — choosing a friend, a spouse, or a career — often involve noticing the character traits in oneself or in others. If a child has learned that honesty or kindness is one of his or her key values and the child recognizes that value reflected in someone’s behavior, that will help in the crucial relationships in later life.

The program is suitable for home-schoolers because parents and children already are deeply connected in a daily educational interaction. Mr. Kraske points out that the system involves finding “teachable moments” in which the family’s various activities can be the laboratory for living out the priorities and values, goals and decision-making process. In a given endeavor, the family can look at the possibilities, compare them to the person’s statements of goals and values and adjust the decision-making to better reflect those.

Mr. Kraske points out, “Parents learn as much as the kids with this kit, and sometimes the parents report that the system forces them to be accountable as well. ‘My kids are going to ask how I prioritize my own choices,’ one dad told me.”

The kit also lends itself to other uses: mentoring, leadership of organizations, marriage preparation and enhancement, workplace decision-making. Games that go along with the program make the process fun and stimulate discussion. Also, the framework can become a tool for family and friends to reflect to the growing child how those character traits are observed and honored by significant adults.

The entire set can be purchased online at www.vizm.com for $150, but readers of this column will receive a 30 percent discount by using the promotional code “wtimes” when ordering.

“This helps parents to transmit their family’s values by bringing things to the surface and making them conscious. Kids can learn how to set goals based on values — whether those are spiritual, familial, financial or educational,” Mr. Kraske says. “Those are the seeds that we parents need to plant.”

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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