The birthday celebration table was full of family and friends when eight year old Caroline blared “you’re so stupid” at her six year old brother. He had just allowed a double scoop of chocolate ice cream to fall off of his cone and on to the carpet. Before her mother could render the telltale parenting “apologize right now” glare, Caroline recalled her family doctrine. The third entry states “The Hughes family will not publically “diss” or embarrass other family members.” She swiftly turned to her brother and said “I’m sorry. You’re not stupid.” Mom breathed a sigh of relief. The laminated piece of paper framed on their refrigerator door alleviated an escalation of sibling angst and the need for her to be the big bad consequence giver!A family doctrine can be a vital tool in cultivating family harmony and positive values in kids.
Not to be confused with a punishable set of rules, the doctrine is a type of mission statement for a family and is approached with an honor code mentality.
Included in it are principles or values that all family members take pride in living by and by which they hold each other accountable. Perhaps most importantly, it is a place of belonging.
Coaching families to create their family doctrine has yielded to them creative ideas not to mention loving bonds and the foundation for new traditions.
Every New Year’s Day (and as needed in between) the Cruise family revisits their doctrine. It has become a coveted tradition. This year, their tween, Josie, suggested “The Cruise family will perform two R.A.C.K.s (random acts of caring kindness) every week.” The acronym stands for Random Act of Caring Kindness. Josie added the word “caring” because it reflected the value she calls “meaning it” otherwise known to adults as “sincerity.” The family of five agreed that R.A.C.K.s were very achievable with simple acts such as taking someone else’s grocery cart from the parking lot back in to the store, putting afamily member’s shoes away without being asked, or simply smiling and saying a prayer so that even a grouchy stranger could find a better mood. The Cruise’s agreed to share their R.A.C.K.s over family dinners.
After Mr. Baylor’s birthday was minimally acknowledged by his children, the Baylor family decided to honor all birthdays with a handmade card. It didn’t matter if it was made from a sheet of white, lined paper. They decided the heart inspired message is what mattered most. They identified that the underlying value of love was what they were honoring.
After identifying the value of integrity, the Menon family decided they would not lie (not even little white ones!). The exception to this rule would be fooling each other to throw the perfect surprise birthday party! Of course, when their 2 year old munchkin grows and tests his limits, they will be challenged. Periodic lying is normal for children and Mr. and Mrs. Menon will have their work cut out for them to set limits and enforce them consistently. Their family doctrine will help. Imagine the lessons this child will surely come to appreciate and be appreciated for.
Creating a family doctrine begins with the simple step of identifying values.
Even one endearing value from each family member can generate a creative plan of action that builds character and so much more.
Parents know that they are teaching their children productive life skills. They also find that the simple sentence, “what does our family doctrine say?” often diffuses tense situations.
Children find that some difficult choices are easier when they use the doctrine. It can be a safe haven from which they can govern themselves positively. When families routinely visit their doctrines, they set the stage to reflect upon their growth and celebrate successes. Why not include celebrations in the family doctrine!
Creating a family doctrine is a meaningful endeavor that leads to a meaningful legacy.
“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything!” (Quote author unknown)
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