Want to Strengthen Your Family’s Values? Try This.
Architect of Change Sean Covey, a motivational speaker, the EVP of Global Solutions and Partnerships for FranklinCovey, and the New York Times-bestselling author of the books The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make, The 7 Habits of Happy Kids, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, explains the purpose behind a “family mission statement” and how you can work with your family to strengthen your values and create shared goals.
1) You and your father both espoused the concept of having a family mission statement. Can you explain what goes into that? What value do you see in this exercise?
As a teenager, I remember my father telling mom and us kids that he wanted to write a family mission statement. I thought he was kind of crazy. So, one evening we all sat down and he asked us questions like:
- “What does our family stand for?
- “What do we value?”
- “What is most important to us?”
- “What do we want it to feel like in our home?”
We all chimed in. After meeting several times over the next couple of months, we came up with a short one-sentence family mission statement. In summary, it said that our home is a place of fun, love, service, unity, hard work, and a place where we can relax, renew ourselves, and prepare ourselves to make big contributions to the world.
As a teenager, I didn’t care so much about what it said. But I really like how it made me feel. It helped our family come closer together and gave us a sense of belonging and purpose. Today, 30 years later, my siblings and I are the best of friends and this sense of family mission has made all the difference.
Now that I am married and am raising my own family, we have developed a family mission statement of our own. All my kids know it. It is only five words long, but it means so much to us. My uncle developed a mission statement for his family. It reads, “No Empty Chairs.” It represents his family’s value of everyone belonging and never giving up on each other.
2) Once a family has decided upon their core values, how does a parent work to implement them in the day-to-day?
First, it starts with modeling the core values yourself. If you say one thing and do another, your kids will know that the mission statement is just words on a plaque and will develop cynicism.
Once you decide what is most important to your family, as parents you need to do all you can to be a good role model. If your mission statement says that you value family time, then find time as a family to be together. If you value honesty and integrity, model it yourself through showing integrity with your friends, your spouse or partner, and in your work. As the saying goes, “Who you are speaks so loudly, my ears can’t hear what you’re saying.”
Second, it is vital that you find time together on a regular basis. Have family vacations, develop traditions, set apart a night or a weekend day to do something each week. And then have fun together. Build a culture of fun and laughter.
Sometimes, especially when your kids are teenagers, they don’t want to spend time with their parents, and you may have to force it a little bit. We called it “forced family fun.” We tell our kids that we are all doing something together on Sunday night and not to plan anything. They sometimes complain, but once we’re together we end up having a great time.
3) Are there leadership skills from the corporate world that you think are useful for families?
Yes, many. In the workforce, you always have too much to do and not enough time. You have to constantly prioritize what’s most important and if you don’t, you’ll get buried by the minutiae and won’t be effective. So it is at home. You have to juggle so many priorities and it is vital that you prioritize wisely and ensure that quality family time, family meals, family traditions, attending your kids’ events and other important activities get the attention they need.
Another thing you learn in the workforce is the need to empower your people and not micromanage them. No one likes being micromanaged. This principle of shared leadership and responsibility also pertains to the home. Assign your children responsibilities and let them really own them. Share the load and the chores. As they get older, empower them to take on certain roles and responsibilities.
Finally, everyone needs to be affirmed, whether at work or at home. True leadership is communicating to another person their worth and potential so clearly they are inspired to see it in themselves.
4) What do you say to parents of teenagers who find it challenging to maintain control and uphold their family values during those years?
I understand. It’s hard. You just have to keep working on it. Sometimes it may take weeks or months to restore broken relationships. But do all you can to remain close to your teenager even if they aren’t responding and don’t seem to care. They do. Never give up on them no matter how far off they may be. Most struggling teenagers come to themselves later and end up being responsible adults.
I recommend the practice of having quality one-on-one time on a regular basis with each of your kids. It may be once or twice a month. Do something they enjoy doing. Call it your private date or whatever works for you, but hold this time inviolate. The one-on-one nature of this is the key. As soon as you invite someone else, it changes everything.
5) What is one thing a parent can do today to start to strengthen their family dynamic?
Make a promise and keep it. Tell your kids that you will pick them up at 3:15 at school and be there at 3:15. If you tell them that you will take them to the concert, do it. Do all you can to make and keep your promises to your kids. Apologize if you fall short and then keep your next commitment. This will build their trust in you and they will know you care. This can change the dynamic of the home as quickly as anything.
The second thing I would recommend is to watch the tone of your voice. Tone is everything. Have a positive, affirming, happy tone. Don’t be critical and negative, even if they deserve it. Do your best not to lose your temper, to laugh over spilled milk, and to let your kids know you’re crazy about them. Everyone in the world needs to have someone be crazy about them and if you aren’t crazy about your kids, there is a good chance they won’t find anyone else who is.
The most important work you will ever do will happen within your own home. So make your family your top priority. No one on their death bed wished they would have spent more time at the office. Life is all about the quality of our relationships, especially with those you love most.
For more from Sean Covey, go here.
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