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As adults, many of the personal core values we live by are often a direct result of those instilled upon us by our parents and what they believed to be important.
The values our parents taught us as children are called family core values, and whether we realized it or not at the time, they were playing a part in influencing the person we’d grow up to be.
Typically starting in the teenage years, kids start to question their parents. In fact, they may choose to disagree with or ignore some of the family core values they are trying to impart upon them.
Younger children, however, are not often capable of making that distinction or exercising free will… so what their parents teach them is often considered law.
House rules, if you will.
Differences aside, values are the glue that holds a family and society together… and often serve as a moral compass when it comes to decision making, emotional ties and our behavior.
Now that you are the parent, you have the massive responsibility of establishing family core values for your kids. This means that you are tasked with not only leading by example, but teaching them how to think for themselves and behave appropriately in all kinds of social settings.
So how do you go about establishing and defining these values?
In this article, I will outline a 5 step process to get the ball rolling. I’m convinced you won’t find it terribly complicated, but it will be helpful nonetheless.
When you were contemplating marriage, your partner’s core values obviously played a huge part in the decision.
After all, if you didn’t share similar beliefs, passions or goals… it’s unlikely you would have gotten as far as you did in the relationship.
On our first date, my husband and I discussed many of these things… and while that may seem “heavy” or unusual, we were already in our thirties and both knew we were ready to find someone to settle down and have children with.
We weren’t there to play games… dating was for mating.
And once our first child came along, another conversation needed to happen regarding our family core values.
So, if you haven’t done so already, you need to grab a notebook and sit down with your partner to discuss the kind of children you want to raise.
You also need to take a good look at yourselves and see what it is you could possibly do better… or something you may want to change about your own lives.
Your children will emulate your actions.
For instance, if you work long hours and miss out on a lot of things, you might want to find a way to carve out more family time.
Family Core Value Goal: Togetherness
As another example, if you have a tendency to spend money on extravagant things… perhaps you want to incorporate some volunteering or charitable donations into your family core values. (Check out this list of great songs about family love.)
Family Core Value Goal: Selflessness
You and your spouse promised to be there in good times and bad… for better or worse. You are best friends, which means you should be able to be honest with one another when it comes to making changes for the better.
At the dinner table one night, propose a small challenge to your kids. You can even call it a family homework assignment.
Give them a few days, or even a week, to come up with a list of their personal strengths and weaknesses. Let them know it will be discussed later.
If you have younger children (under age 6 or so), you may need to help them out with this. It can be done by simply asking them some questions. Things like:
- What is your favorite game or sport to play?
- What is your favorite subject in school?
- How many friends do you have?
- What do you like most about yourself?
- What makes you angry?
- Are you scared of anything?
Questions like these may seem vague, but you can learn a lot by their answers. For instance, if your child is scared of the dark, maybe a family core value could incorporate Courage?
If the thing they like most about themselves is the way they sing, perhaps your family core value list could include Creativity?
Asking your child a few simple questions is a great way to get the ball rolling when trying to put together a list of values.
Now that you’ve made your wish list of family core values with your partner, and your kids made their lists of personal pros and cons, it’s time to call a family meeting.
If you don’t already do this on a regular basis, it’s possibly something you could work into the core values chart.
Family Core Value Goal: Open and Honest Communication
Family meetings can be as casual or formal as you’d like. Some families I know prefer to have a speaking “object” that gets passed around so that each person gets a turn to say what’s on their mind and share their feelings. The person holding the item can’t be interrupted until they open the floor for questions and comments.
Other families prefer to work family meetings into a game or movie night. Where they talk a bit about what’s going on before the fun starts. The fun is a good way to put anything heavy off to the side and not let it ruin the evening.
You always want to end your day on a positive note.
During the meeting, let everyone share their feelings and keep a running list of the family core values that could arise from what was said.
Using the ones I’ve mentioned above, the list would include:
- Open Communication
Once your list is compiled, have everyone vote for the ones they want to incorporate.
Keep in mind, there is no limit to how many values you select… but you don’t want it to seem overwhelming either.
You want and need to be able to adhere to your family core values, so it is okay to be selective when it comes to what is most important to you moving forward.
Sometimes less is more.
Now that you’ve decided on your family core values, the next step is to get on the computer and create a creed.
You can use graphics, fancy fonts… whatever floats your boat.
The creed can read something like this:
“We, the members of the Jones Family, hereby solemnly swear to do our best to live by the family core values established here on this 19th day of June, 2021.
We promise to help each other grow and support one another in all life’s endeavors.”
Then have everyone sign the creed.
Even if your kids are too young to write their own names, you can get creative and use ink to make a fingerprint instead.
Once finished, find a nice frame or have a canvas print made, and prominently display the creed in your house as a constant reminder of your commitment to your family core values.
Now that you’ve established your family core values, it’s time to come up with a plan of action to make things happen.
Believe it or not, this is the tricky part.
Because it is in our nature to be gung-ho about something new… and then peter out as time goes by and the allure wears off.
Think about it.
It is the same reason why so many people have New Year’s resolutions they ultimately abandon.
Sure, the gyms are packed in January… maybe even February or March. But come Springtime, when the weather gets nicer and the biergartens open, those eager beavers start to veer off course.
And before long, they are in bathing suit panic mode and regretting their choices over the last few months.
Being able to stick with your family core values should be treated no differently.
It starts with a plan of action… a course you can follow for the long haul.
And that begins with acknowledging your support system.
Your family is your greatest asset when it comes to keeping your family core values intact. If one person sees someone start to stray, remind them of the creed.
Help them get back on track.
Next, remind each other of the big picture… the reason the values were adopted in the first place.
Not only do you want to be the best version of yourself today, but you want to succeed in the world tomorrow… and instill these values on others.
Finally, check in with one another regularly to make sure you’re staying on track. If anybody is suffering with certain values, talk with them or call a family meeting.
It’s in your best interest to stay involved when it comes to reaching and maintaining the family’s goals.
As promised at the beginning of this article, I have outlined 5 seemingly uncomplicated steps to help you establish your family core values.
It isn’t rocket science.
It’s simply taking the time to figure out what is most important to you… and deciding what kind of life you want for your children in the future.
If asked, most parents would say they want their children to grow up to be happy and healthy. Some will say they wish them great success and financial stability.
Whatever personal dreams you have for your kids, know this: it starts at home.
If you lay down a solid foundation of family core values for your children early on, you are giving them all of the tools they need to achieve the future they desire.
And by including them in the process, they will feel invested and more likely to follow through with the creed.
Remember: you’ve got this. Together, you’ve got anything!
Finally, if you want to level up your parenting skills, then check out this resource that will show you how to get your kids to listen WITHOUT yelling, nagging, or losing control.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications, and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization, and product reviews.