What does your family value most? Would your kids’ answers mirror yours if asked that question? As parents, one of our biggest jobs is to help our kids develop their own internal compass; a framework to help them make decisions when we aren’t with them. With all of the outside influences kids experience today, how can you make sure that your children really understand what qualities and traits are important to your family? One way is to create a family mission statement in which everyone has a voice in articulating your family’s purpose.
The family mission statement is a concept described in author and businessman Stephen Covey’s book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.” Many successful corporations craft mission statements so that all employees can work together toward a common goal.
Covey contends that families, like businesses, need common goals and values to function well.
“A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about—what it is you really want to do and be—and the principles you choose to govern your family life,” says Covey.
Hold a Meeting
To start developing your statement, hold a family meeting. Covey recommends that you keep the meetings fun: combine it with a pizza party or fun activity. If your kids are young, keep the meeting short. You don’t want this important discussion to become a chore! Keep in mind that it may take more than one meeting to complete your mission statement.
Have a Brainstorm Session
Start with reflection questions to get everyone thinking. Read each person’s answers out loud. Make sure that there is a strict rule that no one is allowed to laugh at or judge another’s thoughts. For moms and dads, be careful not to turn this into a discussion of what kids are doing wrong. Your child bringing up “responsibility” as a value may seem like the perfect opening to bring up that they don’t always do their chores. However, the discussion should focus on what the family is doing well in the present and what you hope to do better in the future. Try the reflection questions in the sidebar to get you started.
Write Down Common Values
Once you have compiled everyone’s answers, you will likely see some similar values start to repeat. For example, does everyone agree that supporting each other is one of your family’s core values?
Once you have values from members’ reflections, write them down. Try to stay away from goals. Goals typically are situation specific, while values are timeless. For example, instead of, “We will volunteer as a family each summer,” you could write, “We serve others.”
Every family will have a different list. Be sure to include fun values as well as more serious ones. Your list will likely be very long initially. You might need to get together more than once to whittle it down. The end goal of creating your statement is honing it down to a memorable sentence or short paragraph. Some families even choose a movie or book quote that immediately brings their philosophy to mind.
Display Your Statement
Once you finish, display your hard work! Print it out and display it on the fridge, or frame the page to hang in your living room. It doesn’t matter how fancy it looks or whether guests visiting your home understand what you wrote, as long as it holds meaning for your family.
Taking the time to figure out what your family is about and what you truly value can be anything from a fun family activity to a transformative experience. At the very least, it will spark discussion!