There's family values—that's a political agenda—and then there's your family's values, which are your family's personal beliefs and behavior guidelines. (In some cases, these two kinds of family values may be the same thing. In most, they will not be.)
Here's a fact: Just by living we impart our values to our children. Most parents have a vague sense of their values and how they want their kids to be, believe, and behave, but far fewer have crystallized them into words. That's what we're going to do now; write your family value statement that gets it all down into a series of behavior guidelines. Soon, you'll be turning these values into a set of family rules and goals.
Start by getting a piece of paper and a pencil. You can do this exercise at a family meeting if the kids are old enough to focus on it (we'll talk about these meetings in a moment), with your partner, or by yourself. It's best, but not vital, to have everybody involved.
Words to Parent By
The family values statement lists a general set of beliefs and behavior guidelines that apply to everybody in the family—for example, “Our family does not use violence to settle problems.” It is based on your family's deep-seated beliefs.
It's a Good Idea!
Organization, structure, and specific understanding of family rules, expectations, and goals makes children feel more secure.
What's a family value statement? It's a set of guidelines based on your beliefs about how family members should behave. It has little to do with specific instructions (it's not, “The guys need to put the toilet seat down”—that's a family rule, and we'll get to those later). The statement you are creating is more like a company's mission statement. The family value statement applies to everybody—not just the parents, not just the kids, and not just Cinderella in the corner.
Here's a sample statement developed by Karen Renshaw Joslin, author of Positive Parenting from A to Z:
- We use words to tell others how we feel. We do not name call or use bad language.
- We do not hurt others physically or emotionally.
- We do not hurt each other's property or our own.
- We work to get out of a problem, not stay in it.
You can use her statement (it's a good one), you can add or subtract, or you can build your own. As you are discussing your statement, think about the following set of questions:
- As a family, how do we like people to express that they are upset?
- How important is it for us to spend family time together?
- What do we feel are important manners in this household?
- If somebody is really angry, is it okay to hit? Do we feel it's okay to curse?
- How do I like my things to be treated?
Keep your list fairly short and basic and, when you're done, post it somewhere visible, where people will see (and read) it on a regular basis.