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your kids' core values

A couple of weeks ago I posed the idea of thinking about your family culture. Of thinking ahead, past the busy needs of today and pondering what sort of adults you’d like to put into the world in a few short years.

It’s been interesting to see that it’s piqued people’s interest. The notion of family culture seems to have appealed. Especially to those who hadn’t seen it that way and have a fresh understanding of how they can sow into the longterm by thinking about some big questions in the short term. It had the effect, on those who fed back, of empowerment; creating and owning their own unique sense of family in spite of the influences of the world.

This delighted me no end, because as some of you know, my heart is to equip and empower and encourage parents. So when I hear feedback that includudes the feeling of empowerment or connection, it helps me to know that you’ve felt positively impacted.

So this week I’m moving on to how we begin to own that vision as a family. Yes, including the kids, in the longer term vision. Whether there are two of you or ten!


Have your kids gone through that phase yet of asking why?

  • Why can’t we

  • Why can we

  • Why don’t we

  • Why do we?

These are great baseline questions.

What is the mysterious formula underneath permissions and limitations in their lives?

I don’t know about you but, I’ve heard the word ‘why’ more than any other word over the last six months in light of COVID

  • I wonder why they can’t go back to school?

  • Why can they go back to school?

  • Why can we only have 15 at weddings?

  • six at Christenings?

  • Why are restaurants shut?

  • Why are pubs open?

  • Why Ten-o-clock?

'Why' is an important question.

Underlines value system and intention of a unit

Simon Sinek went viral on Ted Talks when he drew a simple picture and talked about why we should start with the word 'why'.

It’s profound.

It’s the place to start when establishing a business, an enterprise a foundation, a team a group

So it must be key for something as important as a family.

understanding why is foundational.

You’re establishing on your core beliefs and your core values will emerge from there.

It’s a great stepping stone for all the small and large decisions in famly life. Agreeing on some basic values helps children not only to understand, but to own the principles.

This is an idea that was first mooted by Steven Covey, but, like all good ideas it’s been morphed, developed and played out in numerous creative ways by families I have worked with and I daresay families all over the world who were inspired by the original idea. He called it a family mission statement.

Some people call them family rules.

I prefer simply; family values

At first, it might sound a bit intense, but when I break it down, I think it’ll sound more fun. In fact, the process will be as important as the outcome.

So how do you work out your family values?

As I say there are a number of ways to do it, I’ll give you an idea and you can alter that to suit the tone and flavour of your family.

  1. Gather the family

The first step is to gather as a family outside of mealtimes, no phones, everyone together, time to listen to each other and give value to everyone’s contribution. When we wrote ours, one of our children was a baby, but I think the eldest was around ten. Im always amazed by what they can contribute from very young when it’s tailored to them, so from about 5 you can begin to include them in this concept. But your assessment of your own children will be the most accurate.

2. Make it yours

I have a secret stationery addiction, so it was the perfect moment for the post-it notes, fine-liners, highlighters and paper to come out. You might prefer just to chat.

3. Make it clear

Let them know why you’ve gathered and why you’re interested to hear their thoughts and opinions.

You might say something like, 'We want to chat to you about things that feel important in our family. We want to hear what you think.'

Then start the ball rolling. Let them know that you’d like to meet a few times to think about what feels important to you as a family.

You may of course nail this in one session. It took a few for us

4. Make it appealing

We used to bring hot chocolates and marshmalws to our meetings to add to the warmth of gathering. You might prefer something more noble like carrot sticks. We found that adding another dimension to the gathering heightened the sense of occasion and enthusiasm, but your crew might not need that.

5.Make it accessible

Ask them some easy questions

What do you love about being in our family?

What would you change?

What family (or home) do you like spending time in – and why?

Are there some habits in other families you don’t want to see in ours?

It’s not that you’re looking to put other families down here, but sometimes children can know what they don’t like more easily than what they do.

6. Make it acceptable

You may find quite early on that they mention things they do or don’t like that you could feel resistant to

For example, 'So and so is allowed as much screen time as they like.'

Can I suggest at this point that you don’t defend your position if they raise seemingly preposterous ideas, accept their thoughts, write them down. You’re not commiting to anything here, you’re just opening conversation.

They may find it difficult to define a boundary from a value, so its’ better to keep it to an open conversation with everyone participating and go with the flow.

Once you’ve got the conversation up and running, steer it towards aspects that you’d like their input on:

Have an idea of what you’d like to hear about

For example:

What ways do we want to treat each other?

What ways don’t we want to be treated?

Sometimes we have stronger views about what we don’t want because we’ve been on the receiving end. It can be easier to engage with a principle when we’ve engaged with the outworking of its opposite.

For example, if we don’t like being shouted at, we might be more likely to buy in to the idea of using a respectful voice, tone or volume.

7.Enjoy the journey

They may spend the first session just getting used to the idea of chatting like this.

You’ll know when they’re getting distracted and have had enough. They’re more likely to want to come back to it if it doesn’t drain them too much first time around.

Once they’ve got used to the idea of a family meeting you can bring in some principles to your time together such as not interrupting, or rather, letting people finish.

It’s not like the all-play of dinner times, a family meeting can have it’s own mini value system.

Perhaps it could be helpful to hold something when it’s that person’s turn to speak and not speak when you’re not holding it. An old chestnut, but it works well.

Understanding everyone’s ideas even if you don’t agree with them is a great thing to learn. Today’s society quickly dismisses people who don’t agree, or vote the same way, or respond to pandemics in the same way. You can get quickly denigrated, either in person or over social media in a direct or implied way. That’s the culture of the world! Your culture can be different.

This early practice enables them to see that we can still get on with people who differ.

World peace starts in our own homes and this is the biggest potential set back:

You think differently to me.

I feel threatened by that.

I feel belittled if your voice is stronger.

Rejected if your perspective is different.

Let’s shake off some of those misconceptions and enable them to have a strong sense of self worth, even when they’re faced with someone who differs. Teach them that understanding and accepting doesn’t mean we have to agree, or sign anything, it doesn’ rob us of our perspective.

A helpful way to deal with this, in the famiy meeting or in fact in any difficult moment, is to label the opinon or perspective, just that. "Thank you for your perspective, mine is different." So it’s not left out there as the prevailing viewpoint.

Many observers would say that the reason the Brexit vote was such a surprise is that those voting to exit didn’t feel safe to share their pespectives.

You’re setting the ground work here for respectful listening. The basis for negotiating, peace, Not subjects that are commonly taught at a young age.

And try to use loose language – that is to say avoid saying things lik, 'That’s a good idea."

And move towards, "Thank you for that idea."

They need to feel that all ideas are worthy and nothing is in or out.

The Value

There is great value in meeting as a family like this. It increases their esteem, they practise listening, they feel their contribution is valuable. And of course it is. In fact, children never fail to surprise me in their depth and considerations. They’re such observes. They’re often more thought-through than we realise.

As your meetings progress, it can feel a little messy. If you’re like us, by now, you’ll strart to accumulate lots of colourful mess and post it notes,words and ideas.

Perhaps the children are adding to the paper or a toddler is scribbling

Or if you’re a bit more structured, perhaps you’ll got a neat list of everyone’s offerings.

It just doesn’t matter, so long as you’re capturing the essence of people’s thoughts.

8. Take the time to clarify what people mean without steering too much.

For example, if a child says,' It’s not fair when people borrow my things,' flesh that out a bit,

'Thanks for that idea darling, how do you think people should behave?'

'What would make your things feel safe?'

They’ll get to a place where they feel there’s a good articulation for their suggestion through some questioning.

I’m going to suggest a few more categories now to get you thinking.

Next week I’ll share some more ideas and clear up any questions that people have sent in. remember you can always do this by emailing me on

Or send in your family values or mission statement and I can share your ideas too.

So, let’s look at some more categories of questions:

How do we want to support each other.

This topic can consider how we treat each other when we have something important going on.

It could be:

A sporting event (not withstanding covid)

A show and tell at school

Something they’re nervous about such as a detention, an interview (I’m covering all age groups here),

A friendship issue

A parent/teacher evening.

And I’m not just talking about the kids here. We can share age appropriately about the important things in our lives. It was a really big deal in our family when I dropped my first podcast! They often check in on podcast-day and ask about it.

So you can talk about what you all want from each other

And to be for each other. In the big moments.

Here are some more examples:

What sort of frienships do you want to have,

as siblings?..

  • when you’re grown ups?

  • What do we need to do to create good frienships?

  • What sort of things make and upset relationships?

  • How do we like being treated?

  • How don’t we like being treated?

How about

What sort of feeling do we want people to experience in our home?

I remember chatting about this with a mum a few years ago. Her parents-in-law had popped around and the kids hadn’t looked up from the T.V. when they came in. It was her catalyst. So we chatted it through and instead of telling them she was disappointed or that she didn’t like their responses, we came up with some questions to get them thinking. They talked about homes where they feel welcome and homes where they don’t so much. What they would like their home to feel like and what they’d need to do to make that work.

They agreed that they would all come to the door when grandparents arrived.

They would be ready with one question each.

They didn’t have to stay around the whole time they were there.

They all came to stay goodbye.

It worked a treat and the grandparents felt like more valued guests.

The kids created the culture ideas and they owned them and carried them out.

Not everything will be that simple, but it is always easier when the children have been part of the creative process.

Here are a couple more to ponder, these are from Steven Covey’s original concept.

What are our responsibilities as family members?

That’s a big one isn’t it? But so important.

What level of tidiness do we want to live in?

Who’s job is it?

Which part can the children own?

I love this question

Who are our heroes?

What it is about them that we like and would like to emulate?

Whether it’s Bear Grylls, Arna or Pepa Pig, they will be abe to point to things they like about them. Chosing who inspires you and who you want to be like is liberating. It’s moving the values from hidden expectations and set agendas, to their own ideals and aspirations.

Creating a group of family values is empowering for children. It helps them to operate from a place of ‘why’ rather than ‘why on earth?”

  • They come to own the values

  • They learn to respect other people’s values as other’s respect theirs

  • They aim for the benefit of the group rather than just their own preferences.

  • They learn about their own internal moral compass and how they can be different from others yet still understand other people’s values.

Next week, we’ll look at some more ideas and how to move that from a sheet of concepts, ideas, scribbles and colour, into a potted version, - and how we can draw it up.

Let me know your ideas, what’s worked for you, where you’ve got stuck or would like some help.

Pop here if you'd like to hear the podcast.

See you there.

Love Mads x


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