If I asked you right-this-minute what your parents believed in and what values guided them while you were growing up, how succinctly could you answer?
I’m guessing for most of us, a few phrases our parents repeated come to mind, and we can picture them leading family prayers or volunteering at the school. We’re grateful for the values they passed on to us (by example more than anything), but it would be hard to sum up their legacy in a few sentences.
When my kids are grown, I hope they can succinctly and confidently (proudly!) answer what it means to be a member of our family.
Not JUST because I’ll feel like I passed down something meaningful 🙂 🙂 but even more because I think a distilled list of values will give our kids something to look to when they come to crossroads as they grow.
So if our goal is to build families with a deep sense of identity (and thank you so much for you positive response last week!), I can’t think of a better place to start than with a family purpose statement. It’s all about boiling down your family values into something that becomes an integral part of you.
One of my favorite things about a family purpose statement is that it can help individual members and the family as a whole make decisions, as it reminds us where we want our priorities to be.
Should we use a good part of our savings to take the kids to Africa this summer, or should we keep saving for a house? Should Dad serve on the PTA board? Should Sarah sign up for another extracurricular?
It helps us loosen our grip on the things that don’t really matter to us.
In essence, a family purpose statement is the why of your family. (And you know I love a good why!)
Our family’s statement is a work in progress because I want our kids to eventually play a big role in creating it. So until they’re old enough, Ryan and I are gathering ideas and letting a few concepts guide. (I’ll be sharing our rough draft soon!)
But once the kids are ready, I have my game plan prepped, and I thought I’d share it today for anyone who wants to jump in feet first.
Create it together
Getting the kids involved—and genuinely valuing their input—is key to getting them to take ownership of what you create.
Make it a special event
To help the kids associate positive memories with writing your family’s statement, build up some hype and then kick it off with their favorite dinner or (even better) a weekend retreat.
Narrow it down
Start with a question like, “What are some phrases we say a lot?” (to which you might get some funny answers), and progress to “What are our values?” Write down every single answer you come up with. (For 20 more questions to get you thinking, read this great post.)
Then spend some time narrowing it down to what you really care about—values you would make sacrifices for before abandoning them. It may take the whole weekend or even several weeks to get to this point, but it’s worth it. Brevity will allow your children to internalize it.
You may even consider having a full-on statement, as well as an abbreviated version, like a three-word mantra or motto that even the littlest member of your family can recite with pride.
(I have a feeling we’ll be tweaking ours for years, and I’m okay with that.) 🙂
Choose values that are already a part of you
(not just ones you hope to adopt)
“Only if they’re deeply authentic can you hold on to them when it’s inconvenient, and that’s when you know it’s core.” Bruce Feiler (Love that!)
I really believe that what we have on our walls seeps into the mind and hearts of those who live within them, so I can’t wait to display the essence of our family. (Check here for Tsh’s family statement on canvas and here for Shawni’s.)
Refer to it often
…in order to stitch it into the hearts of those kids who helped make it.
photo credit – and a big thank you to my beautiful friend for letting me steal pictures of her darling family!
Update! I’ve built on this post and developed it into a more comprehensive guide, which you can now buy on amazon for $2.99! I’d love for you to check it out!
How to Craft a Family Purpose Statement: A Guide to Discovering the “Why” of Your Family and Building an Identity that Will Stay with Your Children Forever
We put a lot of thought and work into ours, including ideas from our little ones- thanks, in part, to your inspiration a while ago. 🙂 We say it every morning together and talk about the meanings of each part throughout the week. It’s a little long but has a secret hidden word to help us remember. We use it during General Conference too, and in other examples of greatness we see. It’s been a great thing for our little family.
I love love love that you say every morning. We are totally doing that! (Or at least trying to…Consistency isn’t really my strong suit, but I figure it all helps in the end!)
Katie @ Wonderfully Made
We don’t have a family motto (yet!) This has inspired me to chat with my husband about making one!
Love this! Thanks so much!
Such a wonderful idea. I would love for my family to have a family purpose statement. I feel like life is so chaotic right now. And I’m sure that life will just progressively become more chaotic. I think that having a strong family purpose statement will give us something solid to grasp onto and build upon.
love this idea, i need to remember it for one day!
Hi Emily! Thanks for stopping by! I see we have both SLC and SF in common. 🙂 My parents live in Salt Lake, and we live on the peninsula now. Love it here! (Except for the cost, of course.) 🙂 Keep in touch!
I really like your blog! I stopped here because you left a comment on mine and I *try* to visit other people’s blogs because it’s fun and inspirational. I’m curious, what kind of camera do you use? I’m thinking about upgrading mine and am open to hearing suggestions.
Hi Sara! Thank you! I’m the same way – I do my best to visit some links in each linkup or the people who leave comments here. It’s a great way to find new like-minded blogging friends! So I actually just use my iphone for most pictures on my blog. 🙂 I do edit them a bit in photoshop (or apps on my phone), but the best photos on my site were usually taken by my talented friend with a DSLR, who I recruit to take family pictures of us about twice a year. 🙂
So, sorry I’m not more help! Good luck deciding on what to buy! I bought an older, used DSLR from a friend a year or so ago, and I keep telling myself August is the month I learn to use it! Haha. Hopefully that actually happens. 🙂
They’re lovely, whether you take them or not! Any phone apps you really like for editing? I mostly just use Instagram’s filters.
Thanks! I use the VSCOcam app the most (in particular the C1 and G3 and b&w filters); I like that you can scale the amount the filter is applied. I also like Afterlight, which has a few effects that VSCO doesn’t have. Fun fun!
Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake
Even though my family certainly didn’t have a “purpose statement,” I can quickly think of several things . . . not “phrases” but things that I saw my parents do/not do that made an impact. Never verbally tearing each other or anyone else down, showing extraordinary hospitality, giving generously without expectation of a return . . . in short, considering others better than themselves.
Your posts always bring so many thoughts to my mind that I can’t fit them all in a comment, haha. I love and appreciate that about your writing!
With fall fast approaching I’m really excited to give this a try. We only have one baby, and she’s only 9 months, but a new school year always feels like a great time to start something new; and I’ve been drawn to your posts about finding purpose in family life. This seems like a great first step for us! Thanks for the idea.