As my kids get older, I’ve noticed a certain “personality” to our family has begun to emerge. Slowly over time, we have become known to ourselves and others in a particular way. It’s nebulous, but it’s definitely there. I can see now this family personality of ours includes our burgeoning Family Values, just waiting to be explored and aligned on.
Exploring your unique Family Values is a way of coming together. You’re a team, and people love to be part of something bigger than themselves. Not only will your Family Values provide a structure for making decisions, resolving conflicts and setting limits, it will define positive focal points that you can work toward together for years to come.
So, how best to go about defining them together? We came up with a collaborative way, using a typical Family Meeting structure, to design and define your unique Family Values. In this post, we outline our three steps.
Good news! There is no need to concern yourself with getting this process just right! My colleagues at FLC have reminded me that this is one of those times where it’s about the journey, not the destination. As you walk through the steps, keep in mind that should you try this with your family, the real opportunity here is to grow together as a unit as you think both about and beyond yourselves – how cool is that?!
In short, the experience itself is SO MUCH MORE important than the output here.
Three Steps: Prepare, Meet, Celebrate!
Step One: Prepare
Place these items somewhere central where everyone will see them and be reminded to share their ideas. Do this up to a week in advance of the meeting.
- Hat, bowl, shoebox or other container to hold ideas
- Small pieces of paper or notecards
Optional additional materials
- Family Values Conversation Guide of prompt questions
- Inspiring stories printed or cut from newspapers and magazines
- Cherished family photos
- Anything else that brings you inspiration!
Inviting Your Family to the Conversation
Now that you have your stuff, invite your family!
- Cover the basics: Who, What, When, Where and Why
- Make it enticing – be descriptive and have it be special (favorite snack, location, etc.)
- Create an atmosphere of fun – this is a unique opportunity
- Treat it as a special occasion – it is a place where each voice will be heard and respected
- Allow choice – it’s not required
My invitation happened over dinner last night and sounded like this: “Hey guys! For our next family meeting, I’d like to try something new that I think will be really fun and awesome for us – we’re going to create our Ratkovic Family Values. We’ll use our regular Family Meeting time, but this one will be dedicated just to creating our values, no other family business. To make it extra special, I thought we could make our homemade popcorn and hot cocoa and set up a work space for us in the kitchen.”
Note: for families with younger children, they can buddy up with an older family member to help write their ideas. You can also invite them to participate through drawing their ideas. Either way, include them as a thinking partner in the family – it will mean so much to them.
Step Two: Meet
Here is an outline for a Family Values Creation Meeting, written in a way that you could use for your family, if you like. Keep a focus on flexibility, and make sure that it’s a great experience – that people stay connected, respected and heard – no matter how the actual event unfolds…
- Welcome to Our First Ever Family Values Creation Meeting!
- Begin with a quick round of appreciations (everyone gives kudos or gratitude to another family member).
- Reflection and Last-Minute Submission Opportunity
- Invite someone in the family to restate what a Family Value is.
- Give a few minutes for anyone to write down last-minute ideas and submit them.
- Pass the Box and Share the Ideas
- Invite people to close their eyes, reach into the container and pull out an idea, reading it aloud to the group.
- Place the idea card down where everyone can see it, continuing until all ideas are read and collected in the middle.
- Categorize the Ideas
- Sit back, pass the special snack and reflect together: What categories are emerging?
- Take your time, move the cards around, and work together to find unifying themes that come through.
- Stay inclusive and judgment-free. Ask each other for clarification or expansion on ideas, when needed.
- Work until you’ve narrowed it to 3-5 categories (more, if you like!)
- Align on Your Family Values
- Have one person read back the first draft of your Family Values by ceremoniously saying “We are a family who believes in/values/stands for _____, _____, and _____.”
- Ask everyone: “Is this us?” Give everyone a chance to respond with
- YES and we need to add something, or
- I would like to suggest a change
- Once everyone has agreed to the set, have another person read the statement one more time.
Step Three: Celebrate!
This part is important whether or not you completed the task at hand to your standards or expectations! It’s a big deal for a family to sit down and consider themselves as a team in this world. Make sure to sit back before you move on to the next thing and appreciate each other.
If you were able to come up with your Family Values in one sitting, the next step is to explore together how you might want to represent and remember them. Some ideas I’ve gathered from others are: making an artful poster, creating a family shield/symbol, writing it like a mission statement and posting it on a wall, or saying it every night at dinner. My plan is to ask my family how we’d like to represent ours.
If it’s still a work in progress, appreciate what did get accomplished. There is always something gained and accomplished through an effort! Plan out when you’ll meet again to complete the work or create your Family Values representation.
Important Things to Keep in Mind
While I have yet to personally go through this exercise as of publishing time for this blog post, I did have a good bit of conversation on the topic with Marjie and others. Here are some things I’ll be keeping in mind:
- Experience over output! Repeat this mantra if needed. Organizing any group of people to accomplish a task could be overwhelming or trying at times. My focus will be on the experience my family is having.
- Every voice heard! Take turns and ensure everyone is having a say. This is critical. Using a talking stick or setting ground rules can be a great way to do this.
- Be encouraging, no matter what! Remember this is not a voting exercise on which ideas your family likes best. It’s an opportunity to have something emerge when everyone’s ideas are considered. Think of the powerful example you will set for your family by encouraging everyone’s voice and ideas.
- Nothing is set in stone! Creating your family values can be an ongoing exploration. Treat this conversation as the beginning of something wonderful for your family.
- Suspend any worry or doubt! You might be pleasantly surprised by how people show up.
- Trust the Process! Allowing others’ input or taking a different path than you originally conceived may require a leap of faith on your part. Allow this to happen, and let it be a transformative experience for you as well as others in your family.
- Timing! Make sure you take this practice in small chunks if needed. Consider family members’ ages, attention span, and prior experience when deciding when to take breaks or end the meeting. You can always continue later and remember, say it with me now: “The experience is more important than the output!”
I am so looking forward to reporting back on how the Ratkovic family’s experience goes – and I hope we’ll hear from you. Please comment below or head over to our Facebook page to join the conversation. We look forward to seeing photos and reading stories of your Family Values journey!