Core Values: Building Family Identity, Part 2
This is the second post in the Building Family Identity series here at Disciple Mama! If you missed the first one, check it out here: Building Family Identity, Part 1
What are family core values?
If you’re serious about discipleship parenting, you’ve probably put a lot of thought into defining your family values.
Discipleship parenting means being intentional about passing our values on to our children.
If you haven’t done it yet, or if you haven’t really articulated your family values with your spouse–do it! After all, this intentionality is the whole idea behind Deuteronomy 6:6-7, right? The thing is: you can’t be intentional about passing values on to your kids unless you’ve decided what they are.
So, carefully implementing family traditions that support our family values makes sense, right? And, it also makes sense to evaluate our traditions to figure out what they are connecting us (and our kids) to. If it’s not something that matches up with our values, it might make sense to cut those ties, or shift the tradition to be compatible with our beliefs and priorities.
Examples of family values
The following list of family values is not exhaustive, and you may think of other categories you’d like to add. Just make a list of your family’s values and refer back to it from time to time–with your spouse when your kids are young–and as a group when they get a bit older. Just be intentional about supporting your values with your family traditions and your family rules, too!
Why should I make a list of my family’s core values?
Although 70% of parents claim to have a very specific set of family values, fewer than 30% have gone through the process of writing it out. (Source) That’s a pretty serious disconnect, and I have to admit: until recently, my husband and I hadn’t written out our family values, either.
But you guys, we have to write it out! Here’s why:
Research has shown that if you write out your goals, you’re more likely to achieve them (1.2-1.4 times more likely). (Source)
This is because writing information provides you with something visual to remind you of your goals frequently (if you put it up somewhere you can look at it), and because of the “generation effect” which explains that people remember their goals (or anything) better when they have generated them, as opposed to getting them from something they’ve heard or read. If you write out your goals, you generate them in your mind first, and on the paper second. (Source)
I know that a list of family values isn’t exactly the same as a list of goals, but the same basic principles apply: if you want to remember, focus on, and adhere to your list of values, you should write them down . And seriously, it doesn’t get much more important than your list of family core values.
How do I make family core values list?
List out all of your family values.
Using the (limited) examples from my list above, work with your spouse and older kids to make a list of your family’s values. It will probably be long, which means it probably won’t be too useful on a practical level…and that’s okay!
Narrow your family values list down.
To make your list useful, boil it down to 3-5 key concepts that you can memorize and mention daily. You’ll notice that in this process, any very specific values like “oral hygiene” or “turning off the lights when you leave the room” are going to get left behind in favor of overarching values like “health” and “care for the environment.”
The resulting big ideas will be a great framework for building all your family values on.
My husband and I sat down and went through the process outlined on this infographic by Thalia over at Sacraparental.com. Thanks, Thalia!
Start talking about your values, and acknowledge when they are demonstrated.
Once we completed the first two steps, it was natural to start working on steps 3-4. The best part? We have common language to address issues and frame corrective and celebratory statements to our kids! Disciple Dad (I can call him that, right?!) and I are a united front, and the kiddos are becoming familiar with our family core values as we go, simply because they’re hearing it from both of us in a variety of situations.
Pay attention to values-related growth.
Step 5 follows naturally, and it’s becoming easier for us to recognize and foster growth and improvements in our kids’ character development, because we’re actively looking for a specific set of values to be represented!
We completed the list you see in the photo in one sitting, but thought of more to add and other little changes to make after the fact. We’ve tweaked our family list of core values until we’re happy with it, and now we’re working on designing a couple of versions of our list to put up in our boys’ rooms and also in a common area of our home. We’re also thinking about condensing the whole thing into a family mission statement.
As it is right now, our 3 year old knows that in our home we love God, we love our family, we love others, we love ourselves, and we love truth. That’s the very simple, very condensed version of our family core values list, but we use each of those 5 categories as a little hook to hang our other, more specific values and behaviors on.
Identify the values you are unintentionally passing on.
This isn’t on the chart, but it’s important to think about the values you’re passing on to your kids without trying to teach them at all. In education, it’s called the “hidden curriculum” (source) and it can either support or contradict what you are trying to teach your kids (the formal curriculum).
At home, just like at school, kids are learning constantly, and the whole “do as I say, not as I do” thing just doesn’t work. The way we live life is showing our kids where we actually place value, so acknowledging and addressing the disconnects between the how we’re living and what we say we value is essential.
Maybe kindness is one of your core values, but you’re less than kind when someone isn’t driving the way you like on your morning commute.
Maybe generosity is one of your core values, but you never have anything for the homeless person panhandling on the corner.
Maybe honoring the Sabbath is a core value for your family, but not if it means missing the big game.
You get the idea.
Our kids know when what we say doesn’t line up with what we do, and they’re smart enough to know that actions mean more than words.
Obviously we all make mistakes, and I’m not saying you should present a fake perfect life to your kids. I’m just saying that actions should reflect our values, and when we mess up, or when there’s a discrepancy between what we say is important and what we’re actually doing, parents need to acknowledge it, talk it over with their kids (in an age-appropriate manner), and either rethink the action or rethink that value’s place on the list.
Making a family list of core values is worth the effort!
This is a fantastic process to go through if for no other reason than to really talk to your spouse about what you are each wanting to focus on as you raise your little disciples. My husband and I were already pretty much on the same page (whew!), probably because we’ve been working to be very intentional about all aspects of our parenting. We still have a long way to go, BUT, it was enlightening to have such a specific talk about values, and to work together to sort and categorize our values because it led to a depth of discussion that we’d never really had on the subject. We talked, listened, and learned from each other–and felt more united in this parenting gig than we had before.
Try it! I truly think it’s going to add value to your family discussions, and it will really help bring focus to your discipleship parenting.
Not only that, but articulating these values will be so helpful when we tackle the next part of our Building Family Identity series: Family Traditions!
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