Consider the impact of a family mission statement. How powerful could that be?
Have you ever stopped to wonder what the purpose of a mission statement is? Go on any company website and you’ll find one. A mission statement is an identity tag. It alerts customers to the company’s values and tells you what they’re striving to do. It also serves as a guide for the employees of the company. You could say that a mission statement is like a North Star.
Take a moment to think about the qualities and activities you value. What is important to you? Now think about your actions – do they consistently reflect those values? Sometimes we think and “preach” one thing only to realize we’re doing something different. Kids are constantly watching us. Quite naturally, they think what they see us doing is important, and so they follow suit.
Are you on your phone looking at social media a lot? Your kids are likely to want a screen of some kind so they can be online too. Do you enjoy reading? If your kids see you reading, they’re more apt to be readers as well. After all, if you’re doing it, it must be important.
Creating a Family Mission Statement
So how can you create a mission statement for your own family? First, make sure you and your partner are on the same page. You don’t have to agree 100% on everything, but it’s important to find your “compromise ground” in areas you differ so you can be a united front with your children. For example, perhaps one of you greatly values sports. You don’t mind if your child misses school for an athletic event and you are willing to give up evenings and weekends so they can be on traveling teams. Your partner thinks this is too much. It takes away from the importance of education and rarely allows you to have dinner together as a family.
Neither of you is wrong. The question is, what’s the middle ground so you both feel comfortable that your needs are being met and that you’re serving the best interests of your child too? (Remember to allow space for your child to add to this conversation later in the process!)
Define Your Values
Once you have identified the overarching values you want to guide your family, call a family meeting. Invite your kids into the conversation. Ideally, your child will add their own robust ideas, but top-down value-setting might be necessary in some situations (cell phone use comes to mind). Explain why it is important and help bring your child on board. This segues nicely into the next step, which is crucial. Discuss real-life scenarios that illustrate what these values look like – and what they do not look like. What do you do if you find yourself in this situation either as a family or as an individual?
Let’s say that a healthy lifestyle is one family value you wish to encourage. This may look like trying new foods; eating foods that are grown in the ground or come from a tree; preparing meals that include all colors of the rainbow. It does not look like eating Skittles every day because they’re rainbow colored. But it also doesn’t have to mean that you’ll never have treats. Additionally, a healthy lifestyle looks like outdoor playtime every day. It does not look like countless hours in front of a tablet playing games. Though it could look like an hour of screentime each day.
Talk about moderation and what that means. Perfection isn’t the goal – awareness is. Your kids won’t always be with you. If they’re at a friend’s house whose family values don’t emphasize healthy living, then your kids will need a guide for what kinds of decisions to make – and the grace to know that “having values” doesn’t mean they can never stray from the rules. Nor does it mean that your family is better than someone else’s. Different families have different values; those differences are what add color to the world.
Putting It All Together
Mission statements are just that: statements. They’re usually a sentence or two. So, the final step in creating a mission statement for your family is to synthesize your goals into a short statement that is easy to remember.
You’ve likely seen a cartoon where a small devil is on the character’s one shoulder and an angel sits on the other. Both are whispering their advice – ack! Who to listen to? A short and sweet mission statement can be like that angel, reminding your child of your family’s values and helping them make decisions when they’re in a difficult situation.
Just like a company uses a mission statement to guide its choices, so too can a mission statement be your family’s North Star.
By Mary Ostrowski