Family values offer children (and parents) meaning, direction, and a sense of security. We're here to help you put pen to paper to write these values down, a simple act that will pay dividends in your family culture for years to come.
Family Values: what are they, why do you need them?
They may sound like a relic from the past, but we think family values are worth bringing back to the future. Why? Well, while a family mission statement unites and guides your family towards a common purpose, values make it clear how you will accomplish that purpose.
When everyone in the family knows and understands your mission and your values, then life decisions, parenting, discipline -- the whole shebang, becomes easier. There's less miscommunication, more acceptance of boundaries, and a better understanding of the "why" behind day-to-day activities.
Think of it like any other goal setting exercise. Your mission statement is sort of like the over-arching goal and your values are similar to the tasks and objectives for meeting that goal. Only with your family mission statement and values there is no deadline for achievement. These are life-long guiding principles to help your children (and you) thrive!
What's more, you get to continually tweak and improve how you live into your values and accomplish your mission for the rest of your life.
Why Writing your Values Down Matters
For his book, The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch performed a public survey of over 1,021 US families and found that 7 out of 10 parents say they have an explicit set of values for their families, but only 3 out of 10 have them written down.
I'd argue that those values can't be all that "explicit" of clearly stated if they aren't written down. Humans are masters of selective hearing, and little humans even more so. How many times have you told your kids to do something and later, when you ask why they didn't do it, they either claim they didn't hear you or they completely misunderstood the direction?
Writing your family values down and teaching them to your kids ensures everybody is on the same page. Better yet, put that family mission statement with your values center stage in your living room, so nobody misses it.
Start with Your Mission Statement
Alright, ready to get started? First, things first you need a mission statement. If you haven't made one yet make sure you get a copy of our family mission statement worksheet below.
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Next, head to our post on creating your family mission statement. Since your values need to support your overarching mission as a family, it's important that you have one before writing them!
Questions to Help Clarify Your Values
Using your top 10 values from the family mission statement worksheet, it's time to put each one to the test.
Together with your spouse or anyone else who helped you developed a mission statement, look at each value and ask three questions:
First, is this value broad enough to be applicable in a variety of life circumstances and arenas?
This one is pretty self-explanatory, just make sure you don't have anything too specific. For instance instead of clean housekeepers, you might use cleanliness or orderliness and then detail the different ways you live into this value in your explanation.
Second, is it timeless? In other words can it stick with you from toddlerhood to adulthood?
When you're coming up with values, ask yourself what characteristics you hope to pass onto your children for life. In the moment, you may wish that your toddler was obedient, but over the course of his life, you probably prefer that he seek wisdom or be respectful.
Third, is this value rooted in truth, or a deep belief that you hold and want to pass onto your children?
Finally, if you want these values to have staying power, they need to be connected to a deeper truth or belief. For us, that's Scripture. We actually came up with a set of values on our own, and then went to Scripture to tweak the wording to fit with the character of God. We made sure every value had a verse or several to support its inclusion on our list. It's important to make sure each value aligns with a deeply held belief that your family has.
Once all your values pass these three tests, you should have your final list!
Give a Sentence of Explanation
Now that you've settled on your top 10 values, it's time to explain how you plan to live out that value, and a little bit of the why behind it.
For example, one of our family values is stewardship. Stewardship is a pretty broad word, which is great, but we wanted to make sure our children understood what we meant by it. So, we wrote the following explanation for it: We will leave our land, home, and earth better than how we found it, partnering with God in redeeming all things for His glory.
This simple statement addresses the how of stewardship and a little bit of the why. It also shows how it fits within our family mission to partner with God in spreading His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
You can even include a verse or quote references in this explanation. It's totally up to you! I would recommend keeping it pretty short, since our goal is to get all of this on a sign for your family to read.
About that sign... it's time to make it!
This can be a super simple printed or written document that you frame and place in the living room or laminate and post on the fridge.
Or you can make a DIY sign! Of course, we love this idea, since we're all about handmade things. We actually ordered one from a shop on Etsy, because lettering is not our strong suit. But don't let shipping time stall you, get that written first draft posted on the fridge ya'll!
Still haven't started, here's a quick summary of your to-do's:
Write Your Family Values
- Start by creating an overarching mission statement
- Test your top 10 values: see if they're broad enough, timeless, and rooted in truth
- Explain how you will tangibly live out each value in a sentence or two
- Create a family values sign and place it somewhere everyone will see it
Make it stick
Okay, now you have your mission statement, your values, and an explanation of how you're going to live each one out. You've written it all in big bold font, you might've even crafted a beautiful sign like this one. You put it in the living room, where no one can miss it. But how do you make sure people read it? Or better yet, practice it? How do you teach family values to your kids?
Don't worry, we won't leave you hanging, we've got you covered with all sorts of ideas in our final post: "How to Teach Kids Values". Read it now or pin this post to come back to later!
In the meantime, make sure you share this article with your community, let's do family differently together!