"A (wo)man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of (her)his life in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of beautiful God has implanted in the human soul."- Goethe

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Family Values

It can be tricky to step back from day-to-day living to ensure that my daily actions are intentional. I know what it tastes like to feel like surviving is the best I can offer, but I don't like to remain in that place. I want to thrive in life, not just survive! And I want that for my family too.

When we realized our family needed better focus, we decided to incorporate a monthly Family Values tradition. (We picked up this idea from a podcast about family, with excellent episodes touching on the topic here and here. Give it a good listen!) The way it works for us is we pick a value we would like our family to focus on every month. We have weekly family gatherings (FHE, yo!) where we explore different aspects of that value, share stories and scriptures showing the importance of that value, post fresh visual reminders throughout our home, and talk about how it relates to our family.

This is a fairly new practice for us so we're continually finding ways to fine-tune it. We have bitty kids who have a difficult time understanding abstract concepts and understand literal concepts much better. So, we keep it simple by saying things like, "We are a helping family" or "We are a learning family." Then we drive it home even more by talking about how each person in our family helps and learns in his or her own special way like "Dad is a helping guy and keeps our kitchen so clean" or "Mom is so great at helping when you need to practice the piano". We also try to incorporate at least one family activity each week that illustrates the concept in addition to finding appropriate moments during each day to talk about the family value for the month. It doesn't have to be elaborate, it just needs to be present.

Some themes we've focused on so far are helping, learning, together, and playful. When we started out, Kirk and I sat down and made a list of many characteristics we value. The list was comprised of values we were proud of or were our natural strengths, values we need to improve on, and essential values we need our children to understand. Our list was much longer than months in a year, so we combined and simplified our values to fit our family needs. Plus, there will be many more years to come. I'm not concerned about repeating the same ones every year as long as they remain relevant.

We thought about mapping out the months ahead of time, but find it's easier to have options to pick from and focus on what our family needs the most during that season. Usually it's something our family is currently struggling with (like our helping month, haha! Painful, but necessary!) but sometimes it's something the season naturally dictates (like our together month which occurred during the hectic holidays filled with countless family get togethers, performances, and traditions). Kirk and I also have ongoing discussions about what values we want to instill in our family before the start of each month, so we don't feel like we need to stick to the list and can make sure our focus is what the most needed and most relevant at that time.

We are not perfect with this, but I have noticed more meaningful actions and purpose as a family. Our daughter is starting to recognize the importance of these values and is proud of herself when she exhibits them or sees them in others. It's been good.

We are barely new to this depth of family intentionality, so I'd love to hear what you have done to make your family teaching moments count. What meaningful practices do you have in your family? Do you have any tips to share about focusing on monthly family values? Do share!

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