Recently in my Parent Journey group at my Beloved Hippie Church™, we discussed creating a family mission statement (like companies do, although Guy Kawasaki prefers "mantra") to act as a framework not only to help shape and support expected behavior, but also to act as a reminder of our own "family values."
The discussion came at a perfect time because J. and I have really been struggling lately with how to get Bunny and Wallie to be better listeners—better family members—without have to constantly goad, remind, and yes, yell at them. We were really good at laying down the law (rules) and getting the girls to follow them when a big consequence was looming (like no Christmas presents, for example), but what was lacking was the WHY that made following the rules (listen, do their chores etc) something the girls wanted to do year-round.
Why was it important that the girls listen and communicate better or help the family a little more with age-appropriate chores? We wanted to be able to show that our job as parents wasn't to make their lives miserable, but to help them be the best girls they could possibly be.
Creating the family mission statement also helped to take the focus off of rules and chores (because that's just one part of being a productive member of a family), and put the spotlight back on what it means to be a Butler. Did we just want to raise obedient, helpful automatons? No, we want to raise caring, sentient, confident, emotionally intelligent human beings. Hopefully, having a mission statement will help us along this path.
Last night we held a family meeting where we created our family mission statement together. The process was so interesting and gratifying that I highly recommend you do one for your own family. I say interesting because, as you will see, our five- and seven-year-old knew a lot more about what the core principles of our family—just by being a part of it—than I ever would have given them credit for. It was gratifying because we all came away from the meeting ready to focus on "living our values," as it were.
Here is our Butler Family Mission Statement:
- Respect each other. -Papa
- Make people feel better. -Wallie
- Be giving to people who need help. -Bunny
- Have a loving heart and an open mind. -Bunny
- Do your personal best in all you do. -Mamma
- Be healthy. -Papa
- Care about the earth. -Mamma and Wallie
I wrote down everyone's suggestions on blue construction paper with colorful pens. We didn't censor anyone's suggestions except perhaps to rephrase ideas so we all could understand them. We decided to post our mission statement in the bathroom where everyone could see it every day. I must say, I feel reassured whenever I look at it.
As my parent group name denotes, parenting is a journey, and I am so thankful to have that group to allow me a place to "check in" every month. And because parenting (like spirituality for me) is a life-long journey, we may need to revise our mission statement over the years. For now, though, I think it's a pretty good one.
If you have a family mission statement, I would love for you to share it with me. If you don't and decide to go through this exercise, please let me know what you came up with! Oh, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Your values should guide the entire process.