Family Rules, Creed, Mission Statement?
Dr. Laura.....I want to create a Family Rules or Laws or some sort of Creed for our family to follow and go to when needed, something with generic rules for life or quotes that I can print and frame and hang on my wall. Any ideas?
It's a wonderful idea to write down your family "creed" or mission and hang it somewhere in your home, to inspire both adults and children. And yes, as you talk with your children about choices and values, it's great to have a guiding vision to refer to, right on your wall. Quotes that inspire you, or a Family Motto, can also help motivate both children and adults to act on their values.
What you DON'T want is a lot of "laws." Studies show that the families that are the healthiest and happiest don't actually have a lot of rules. They have simple, clear expectations for the way people treat each other, that both adults and children try to follow. The adults model these behaviors and when the kids struggle to follow them, the adults help them.
So, for instance, "We treat each other with respect and kindness" could be part of your family creed. When one of your kids is not kind, there will be a reason; something they think excuses them from following the rule. (Maybe their sibling was unkind first, or was unintentionally inconsiderate.) So you would use this as an opportunity to help your children solve their problem, using your Kindness rule as your north star to move towards.
It's also important for your children to emotionally "own" your family rules, so you'll want to involve them in deciding on your most important guidelines. Notice that in the "Croft Family Mission" shown here, the children have added their "signatures" via handprints. (The Crofts call this their Mission, and it does work as both Rules and a Mission Statement. More on Mission Statements below.)
It's a good idea to keep your Family Rules (you could also call them Agreements) to no more than five, so they don't feel overwhelming to your children. In deciding on your top rules, keep them global and always begin with your values. So if treating each other with compassion and kindness comes first, then the #1 Rule is "Be Kind." Phrasing in the positive ("We ask before we touch someone's body" will be more effective than saying what you don't want ("No Hitting").
Depending on the age of your children, your Family Agreements might look like this:
1. We are kind.
(No hurting people or things; No mean words except in the privacy of your bedroom. )
2. We are respectful.
(We ask before touching someone's body or possessions.)
3. We tell each other the truth and always keep our promises.
4. We clean up our own messes and when we make mistakes, we repair them.
We always work things out with each other.
We all pitch in to help as a family.
5. We support and uplift each other.
You might also decide to have a one-phrase Family Motto, which is a rule so important that it becomes a guiding vision for your family. You'll find yourself using it often, so that it becomes a saying in your family. Some mottos from parents on the AhaParenting.com Facebook page:
- Choose love.
- In this house, we do loving and kindness.
- Be brave, be kind, be respectful.
- What will work? Team work!
- People are more important than things.
- Family is forever.
- There is ALWAYS more love.
Family Mission Statement
For something to frame, I think you're looking for a Family Mission Statement. A mission statement is a short summation of what matters most to your family, that you formulate together to help family members align with each other about what's important. Then you post it to inspire you and keep you on track.
The Mission Statement pictured here, courtesy of Mari Hernandez at Inspired by Family, is a bit long for a mission statement, but it is certainly inspiring. Whatever works for you is what you want; there's no right or wrong here. In fact, the process of discussing your mission statement with your family is probably more valuable than the finished product.
Stephen Covey describes how he and his wife asked their kids a series of questions, including "What makes you want to come home?" and "What embarrasses you about our family?" Then they asked their children to each write a statement about the kind of family they wanted to live in. Then they combined everyone's most important points to come up with one family mission statement. Here's the mission statement they ended up agreeing on:
"The mission of our family is to create a nurturing place of faith, order, truth, love, happiness, and relaxation, and to provide opportunity for each individual to become responsibly independent, and effectively interdependent, in order to serve worthy purposes in society."
So you could follow a process like this to come up with a Mission Statement that your entire family "owns." You might ask questions like:
- What are your three favorite one-word descriptions of our family?
- What is most important to our family?
- What do I value most about our family?
- What kind of family do I want to live in?
Have everyone share their answers, and start combining. Make your first draft, and post it for everyone to read and think about. You don't have to do this all at once. Think about your draft and revise it in a week. Once you all agree on a version that feels good to you, print it out and post it. Have another review periodically -- does this need revision? Discuss. Revise. Shake on it. Frame it. And most of all, keep referring to it, and revising it, so this becomes a daily source of inspiration and discussion for your family.