Family Values

By Kristie Sigler, SALT effect August 5, 2021

If I could give families with young kids one piece of advice, I know exactly what I’d say. Without hesitation.

When our boys were babies, my husband and I made a decision that became the foundation for everything in our family. At the time, we had no idea how important it would be.

We took a cue from successful businesses and identified our family values.

I know--that’s probably not the advice you expected.

And it’s not advice you’ll hear from too many places. But I cannot emphasize enough how much easier life is because we spent a few hours making a decision 12 years ago.

Knowing your family values will make a difference
The most successful businesses and nonprofit organizations:
โ—Have clearly defined values.
โ—Use those values to guide and simplify decision-making.
โ—Rely on those values to give employees a sense of purpose.

What family wouldn’t want something to help make better decisions (no more overthinking!) and give everyone a sense of purpose? Purpose is one of the keys to building resilience and that’s definitely something I want for my kids.

How we’ve used our family values
All of our big decisions get filtered through the values we chose for our family. Should our boys play travel sports? Is now a good time to make a career change? Do we make some home improvements or go on vacation?

Our family values were faith, family, education, service, and travel. With those as our guide, we decided to do travel sports but on less competitive teams. Our career decisions have kept us in higher education. We’ve done bigger trips instead of painting the orange-y oak trim all over our house.

Those decisions were right for our family. But that doesn’t mean they’re right for everyone.

If your family values achievement, then you might choose more competitive travel teams. If your family values beauty or creativity, you might decide to paint or remodel your home because you spend so much time there.

How to identify your family values
Set aside an hour to decide on your values. If your kids are young, do this on your own or with your spouse. If they’re older tweens or teenagers, get them involved!

We created a new list of values with our boys and their input was really insightful. Our new values are faith, communication, family traditions, adventure, and downtime.

Follow these steps to make your list of values:
1. Brainstorm individually. Think about what matters most to you and what you really love doing.

2. Share your answers and make a master list for everyone to see. Talk through the answers to get more insight.

3. Figure out what you have in common to narrow your list. Make 4-5 categories with similar answers.

4. Decide on a word to label each category. If you need inspiration, search for lists of values online.

5. Review the labels and make changes until everyone agrees on your final list of family values. Do your best to limit the number to 5.

My last bit of advice? Write those values down and put them somewhere for everyone to see!

Kristie Sigler teaches communication at The Ohio State University and runs the blog SALT effect with Mary Sterenberg which includes gift guides, book recommendations, and other parenting resources for moms of tweens and teens.