I think it’s pretty safe to say that my family (ahem) stands out. We have a lot of kids. We homeschool. We don’t watch television. We live in a barn, for Pete’s sake.
On Friday, I shared that, in the beginning, we were on the unexamined, default path of family living. True, anyone who knows my husband and I know that we have never had an issue bucking the status quo. But defining our Family Culture helped us not just lead reactionary “we want to do it differently” lives in regards to what’s perceived as normal, but gave us a framework and some bigger goals to strive towards as we walked through the years.
If you’re dissatisfied with the rhythm of your days, wary as you see the character of your children developing, or just wondering how to fulfill your role in God’s great story, this series is for you.
Are you ready to get started?
First, let’s revisit the definition of Family Culture:
“the unique way that a family forms itself in terms of rules, roles, habits, activities, beliefs, and other areas.”
Simple, right? Alright, let’s begin with a question:
What are my family’s core values?
You might have some quick, easy answers to that question. We value our faith. We value education. We value creativity. We value kindness. These are all excellent answers, and I urge you to write them down. But I also want to encourage you to dig deeper.
Is your husband self-employed? Maybe you value entrepreneurial vision.
Do you love to travel? Maybe you value adventure.
Is there a cause that burdens your heart? Adoption? Life? Social Justice? Animal rights? Maybe that cause is one of your family’s values.
Your values can come from your faith, from your personal passions, from your ethnicity, from anywhere.
Take the time to explore the things that matter to you, and ask yourself, “Is this something I want my children to value?” If the answer is yes, then it goes on your list.
This should be a joint project. This should be you sitting down with your husband and being purposeful. But what if he isn’t on board? What if you have a six month-old baby, and your husband can’t see beyond your child’s first birthday? What if you try and try to feel him out for what he wants for the future of your family and he comes up empty? I say you work toward casting a vision for yourself, with an eye towards revising that vision as he comes on board. Because 9 times out of 10, if you keep asking for his input— if you keep drawing him out— he will soften to the idea. He’ll ponder your questions as he drives to the office, or see you spending more time in one activity or another with the kids, and a seed will be planted. And as he sees fruit from purposeful parenting, he will want to be a part of that process.
So what’s to gain from creating an actual, written list of your values? Everything! This exercise will open your eyes in so many ways to the why of your family. The fact is, you live out your values every day—or, rather, you should live out your values every day. But life has a way of sidetracking the things that matter most to us, of unseating the “best” in favor of the good, kind of a Mary and Martha moment applied across the board.
Let me give you an example. You say you value books. Specifically, you value reading aloud to your kids. You want them to remember time on your lap, listening to the same stories you heard as a child. You want them to remember you dropping your voice into a slight rumble when they think of Aslan, and your slightly robotic voice when they picture the Tin Man making his way alongside Dorothy towards Oz. But you just signed on with a home sales company, and the best time to make calls and send Facebook messages drumming up business is when the baby is napping. That used to be your quiet hour with the older kids, your guaranteed reading time when you could be pretty sure no one would interrupt Laura and Mary as they made their way across the prairie. So you’ve been sending the kids to their rooms instead, or popping on a video when they complain. This is just a season. Just while you’re getting this thing off the ground. You’ll come back to reading. But right now, the idea of being able to contribute a few dollars a month to keep the lights on seems to be much more prudent.
Having a real, concrete list of your family’s core values guides those seasons. It reminds you that reading is a priority. It makes you swap that precious hour from nap time to bed time, to make sure it still makes it onto the daily schedule. Maybe it tells you to set up a three-hour stretch every Saturday at a coffee shop to make the calls. Perhaps it is the gentle voice that says that right now, you need to say no to the good of the MLM and say yes to the great of immersing your kids in literature.
When you decide what you value, you’re setting your Family Culture to true north. You’re saying, “These are the things that matter to us, and these are the things I want my children to know and love as well.” You’re speaking to their hearts, and to the hearts of your grandchildren. This is what is important to us, and this is who we are.
Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children to another generation. Joel 1:3
Ok, one more word here: there’s no right length for a list of things your family values. Your list might have two values. It might have twenty. And that’s ok. There’s no formula here. Remember that definition we talked about earlier? “The unique way.” Unique. That means your family isn’t going to look like anyone else’s. Sit down with God, and ask Him to help you focus in on the vision He has for your family!