What are ‘Family Values”?
Your values are your moral and ethical principles. Values are often a guide for the decisions you make and how you choose to live your life. You most likely have a pretty good sense of what your individual values are. It can be a little more complex to try to define your family values, since there are more people to consider. However, with reflection and communication, you can find effective ways to define your family values for all the family.
Consider common values. Make a list of all of the values that are important to you. This is a great way for all of your family members to think about values. Ask each family member who can write to make a list. Your family can then rank the values on each list to help you define which are the most important to all of you.
◦ Common values include: honesty, balance, caring, generosity, health, humour, learning, wisdom, leadership, and compassion.
◦ Think about your family as you consider values such as cooperation, financial stability, humility, and patience.
◦ Try thinking about the values in terms of categories. For example, your categories could include: Personality, Career, Family, Friends, Health. Try looking at the list of values and figuring out which category to put them in. This organisation can lead to clarity about what matters most to you.
Ask questions. Once you have spent some time thinking about your personal values, it’s time to figure out how to integrate them with the rest of your family. In order to do that, you all need to effectively communicate with each other. Begin the process by asking questions.
◦ Ask your family to join you for a discussion about values. Begin by asking open ended questions such as, “What is most important to our family?”
◦ You can also try, “What brings you happiness? How does that affect our family?”
◦ Other good questions to ask include, “What makes you most proud about our family?” or “What do you look forward to when you come home?”
◦ You could also try “What embarrasses you about our family?” and “What does our family provide for you that you don’t get from friends?”
◦ Consider having each family member answer these questions individually. Then you can openly and honestly compare answers.
◦ Encourage your family members to ask questions, too.
Be a good listener. During your family discussion, it is important that you all practice good listening skills. To indicate that you are listening, ask follow up questions. For example, if your partner says he values honesty, ask him how that can become more of a focus for the family.
◦ You can also use non-verbal cues to indicate that you are listening. Nod your head when someone is speaking, and smile to indicate you appreciate what is being said.
◦ Try to limit interruptions. Ask everyone to put away their mobile phones and turn off the tv while you are having this important conversation.
Solidify your family values. Once you have spent some time discussing your family values and enjoying quality time together, you can begin the process of more clearly defining your family values. Take some time to sit down together and make a list of the values that are most important. You can think of these values as firm guidelines that your family is agreeing to live by.
◦ Writing things down can help your family gain mental clarity about shared values.
◦ Try writing down items such as “charity society” or “religion/spirituality” or “honest communication with family members”.
◦ Try having each family member choose 3-4 values that they feel are most important. Combined, this will give you a manageable number of values to put on your permanent list.
◦ For example, you could choose “safety” as one of the primary values for your family. Each family member could then indicate how they will stick to this value. You could pledge to always drive the speed limit. Your daughter could promise to always wear a helmet when riding her bike.
Make sure your children are involved. Treat defining your family values as a family decision. If your children are a little older, such as teenagers, make sure they feel like they are an important part of the process. Say things such as, “We value your input. How do you feel about including education as one of our primary family values?”
◦ You can also encourage your kids to explain their opinions. Try saying, “What do you like about this choice? Why do you think adding humour as a family value is the best option?”
◦ If your children are still pretty young, you can find other ways to get them involved. Try having them draw a picture of the things they love about your family.
Write a mission statement. Once you have reflected on your values and discussed them with your family, you should have a good idea of how to define your family values. One way to solidify them is to write a mission statement. This is a document that indicates what your family values and can also include goals. The mission statement is a formal declaration of the values you share as a family.
◦ Write down what the purpose of your family is and a strategy for making sure that you remain focused on that purpose.
◦ Try writing an introduction that states why your family is choosing these particular values. You can talk about how your family is committed to these values in order to help promote good life choices. The introduction doesn’t have to be long, just a paragraph will do.
◦ List the values. You can organise them by categories such as Health, Happiness, Balance, and Stability. Then, you can indicate your family strategy for sticking to each of these values. We will all make mistakes at times but it is understanding these mistakes and learning from them that matters.
Once you install strong family values within your family, you are providing a very strong base structure for you all. It really helps kids to understand the importance of Values in life as when things go wrong, as they sometimes will – going back to values very often explains certain behaviours and reactions. I know this sounds like a lot of work but break it down, do what you feel is important to you as a family. Every family is unique and you know your own values. I cannot emphasise how important values are for you as parents and also for your kids, especially when technology plays such a big role in everyones lives.