Positive Family Culture
Creating a Positive Family Culture: How and Why to Create a Family Mission Statement.
Getting married and having kids are some of the biggest events in our lives. And yet we largely slide into these significant turning points. Sure, there is a big event accompanying them – the wedding, the birth – but what’s surprising is how quickly the novel and disruptive becomes the ordinary and everyday. Even though you form a new family unit, you usually don’t have to give it much thought beyond keeping it generally functioning from day to day.
For this reason, you may never have contemplated the question of why. Why get married? Why have a family? The importance of each individual having a clear purpose is often stressed these days, but few of us will travel this life alone. We’ll make our way through the world as part of a family. Thus it is not enough to know your own purpose — who you are and where you are going. You must also determine the purpose of your family unit. Why does it exist, what does it stand for, and where are you going, together?
If you’ve never taken the time to answer these questions, or even contemplated them, it’s time to draft a family mission statement.
What Is a Family Mission Statement?
“A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about — what it is you really want to do and be — and the principles you choose to govern your family life.” -Stephen Covey
A mission statement is just what it sounds like – a description of an individual’s, company’s, or, a family’s, raison d’être – its reason for existing. A family mission statement encapsulates your idea of the good life and lays out your family’s purpose, goals, and standards. All members of the family have a hand in articulating these values and all agree to live them.
Companies often use mission statements to direct their decisions and operating procedures, but their utility is even greater for families. After all, instead of manufacturing widgets, you’re molding children, making memories, and constructing the very best stuff out of which life is made.
Why Should You Create a Family Mission Statement?
As we talked about in our first post in this series on creating a positive family culture, loving, supportive, outstanding families don’t just happen. They take a lot of intentionality.
As a man you probably have a deep desire to be a provider, and this is a role that extends far beyond the conventional definition of simply bringing home a paycheck. If we look at the etymology of the word “provide,” we learn that it actually means “to look ahead, to act with foresight.” In other words, being a provider means having a vision.
It’s often the case that a father only finds reason to think about his family’s values and what he wants his family to be like after something has gone wrong. By then it’s usually too late – things have already begun to unravel, and it will take much more time and effort to right the ship.
The best time to begin creating a family culture is as early as possible (like right now!) – when things are still fine (but you want them to be even better). A family mission statement lays out a vision for your family of where you want to go together and how you want to get there. It provides a path and guideposts pointing the way ahead and illuminating the curves and bumps along the way. “Without this vision,” Stephen Covey argues in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, “kids can be swept along with the flow of society’s values and trends. It’s simply living out the scripts that have been given to you. In fact, it’s really not living at all; it’s being lived.”
Having a shared vision – a shared sense of values and purpose – bonds parents and children together. It guides your parenting decisions and offers your children clear ideals to strive for and guidance in what choices to make. A mission statement also articulates the standards by which each member of the family can evaluate each other’s behavior, and children and parents will ideally check and encourage one another as they make their way down this agreed upon path.
Yet another benefit is that a family mission statement serves to distinguish your family from others – providing its members a sense of meaning and identity and giving your children the feeling of being part of something important and special.
How to Create a Family Mission Statement
Before You Start: Understand the Process Is More Important Than the End Product
Before you start thinking about your family mission statement, decide together that you won’t get hung up on whether it “sounds good” or “looks right.” In reality, the end product isn’t as important as the process – this task of creating your family mission statement is where the real magic happens.
During the drafting process you’ll have a chance to have deep, meaningful conversations with your wife and kiddos about what’s really important in life.
You’ll have a chance to bond and connect as a family as you empathetically listen to each other.
As you share your vision for your family with your wife and children as well as the values and principles you think should guide the family, their confidence in you as a husband and father will increase. And vice versa, your confidence in your family will increase as you hear them share their ideas.
Simply having the discussion about values and principles as a family will guide your children to start thinking about these things in their daily lives, which, in my opinion is a big win itself.
So as you work through the steps outlined below, don’t get discouraged if you think it’s taking too long or isn’t going exactly how you wanted. In those moments when you feel like giving up and retreating back into default mode, just focus on the process. Remember, the important thing is that you’re intentionally starting a conversation on what it means for your family to live the good life. This is a life-long, multi-generational discussion. Don’t get discouraged by a single bad family mission statement meeting.