Family values are similar to personal and professional values, but they include your whole family. No matter what and how many members your family has, these values determine how the family as a unit copes with difficulties and rises to challenges.
These values don’t have to focus on upbringing. They can align with your family’s core beliefs. For instance, your family can prioritize professional development or quality time together.
Why are family values important?
Family values emerge whenever someone in the family experiences a challenge. The values may or may not be intentional. Here are four reasons why family values matter.
They provide structure and clarity
Children change and adapt based on the environment around them. They learn by modeling the behavior of those around them. Having a clear set of values provides clarity on what is good and bad, right and wrong. Values give them limits and structure within which they survive and thrive.
Having unclear values is a consistent cause of anxiety. Children will struggle to tell right from wrong if their family values are always changing.
While one family member can have clear personal values, those of another can be completely different. It’s confusing for all the other members when those values clash.
They make communication easier
Clear values help improve communication. Everyone works with the same perception of right and wrong. In the absence of value ambiguity, it’s much easier to have productive conversations, which leads to a healthier family dynamic.
They help forge a sense of identity
Growing up is hard and young people are always trying to figure out who they are. Children, in particular, struggle with their identity and who they want to be. This can be a grueling process because their brains aren’t fully developed.
Having clear family values can help the youngest ones forge a sense of self. They can depend on family values to identify who they are even if the rest of the world remains ambiguous.
They teach respect
People tend to show respect to other people they prioritize and value. Children notice whether their parents treat people with respect or disrespect. Parents might forget their children are watching them. They are like sponges that soak up everything.
In general, most parents want to share values of respect, fairness, compassion, and responsibility with their children. Talking about the significance of healthy and unhealthy values is a good way to teach your child values. Even if they are still young, don’t be scared to give them some responsibilities to teach this value, such as doing the dishes, cleaning the table, or helping care for an ill sibling. They will begin to appreciate and eventually adopt responsibility as a value. What’s more, explaining the significance of values will help them understand the notion of consequences.
How to identify your family values
Usually, values are simply passed down through generations. Still, reflecting on your values is an effective way of changing your parenting style and strengthening your family culture. If you’re able to put them into words, you can decide if you want to keep or change them.
To identify your family values, ask yourself what’s important to you and your family. If you don’t know where to begin, start by looking at what your family does most of the time. Typically, where people spend their time and energy tends to reflect what they value. These activities can be distilled into family values.
You might also ask what you want your family to be remembered for and who you want your children to be as adults.
Talk to your family about your values
The whole family should take part in defining family values. You can begin with a summary of any notes you took in advance. Then, give the other members the mic. Ask them what they think and what they would add or remove from your list of values.
Parents can teach their children positive habits by instilling the right values. For example, you can teach them how to communicate. People like to be received with joy. Encourage your child to:
- Approach friends with smiles and laughter.
- Greet friends by saying their names with cheerful voices.
- Be curious about friends’ activities and ask questions about their interests.
- Be loyal by avoiding gossip.
- Be helpful to friends when help is needed.
- Believe in your friend and encourage them to do their best.
- You can also teach them how to lead a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ideas:
- Provide tasty, healthy meals and snacks.
- Teach your child simple, nutritious recipes.
- Encourage team sports.
- Play energetic games outside with your child.
- Model fitness with your own exercise routine.
Examples of family core values
Below are some family values worth developing:
- Hard work
The final section looks into the family values worth instilling and nurturing in others.
Kindness means knowing how to treat people with respect and care and offer help when needed. Parents can teach their children this value by encouraging them to share toys with siblings and friends and be nice to them.
Some people – and sometimes even entire cultures – believe that success will come to those who work hard. This means putting effort into work, working hard to get a promotion or a raise to further career advancement, and trying to do your best instead of covering the bare minimum. This can also apply in school, where parents tell their children to study and get good grades.
One way the value of hard work can reflect in the family is a tradition where each generation eventually takes over a family business. Working smart may have replaced working hard, though.
Honesty is right up there with the most important moral values, although in some cases, it can be better to lie. It’s not advisable to tell the truth 100% of the time, especially if it will only hurt a person who can’t do anything to change a situation.
Parents will often encourage their children to go to college. In the past, this was a very strong family value where the children would be first-generation university graduates. In some countries, college is getting very expensive, and the employment opportunities available to people with degrees are not that impressive so as to warrant the investment. No value is universal across the board. Education is worthwhile if it can set you up for more wealth and better career opportunities than someone without a degree would have access to.
This is a core family value that can encourage kindness and selflessness. It can involve volunteer work or donating money to a nonprofit organization.
Integrity is a core family value because it sets you up for solid moral values in general. Someone who adopts integrity is honest, chooses to do what’s right, and, obviously, knows right from wrong.
Families who value communication encourage sharing of different viewpoints and cultivate open conversations. Family members need to feel safe to be able to share openly. They shouldn’t be afraid to be honest with each other. One of the best ways to work through family problems is to be able to speak one’s mind. Open self-expression can help people feel like they belong and make sorting out complicated feelings easier.
This can be a very useful family value because it instills a sense of autonomy in the youngest members, especially as they mature. As adults, this sets them up for success. Considering developmental differences, parents should give children different levels of independence depending on their maturity and capacity.
Parents who value emotional health will ask their children how their day was. Those who value physical health cook healthy food and encourage their child to do sports rather than stay inside the house and on their phone. When together, families might choose to perform activities to promote health, like exercising together.
The number of responsibilities you can give your children increases with their age and maturity. One way to instill responsibility into children is by delegating tasks around the house. Parents set an example for responsible behavior by confessing their actions and taking care of valuables placed in their possession.
As a family value, civic participation can enhance a sense of agency, especially in young people, helping them feel like they can enact positive change. A family that values this form of community participation might help organize a cleanup, attend a protest together, or encourage people in the neighborhood to exercise their right to vote.
Parents can model this value in the way they interact with their own friends by calling them to chat, sending them presents, and inviting them over for social events. Parents set their kids up for social success by encouraging them to nurture their friendships. When they leave home, they will be able to create a social safety net, which will help protect their mental health and save them from painful isolation.
Family values aren’t set in stone
Family values grow and change with time. People’s beliefs and priorities change as they mature. Parents should maintain reflection, self-awareness, and open communication with their children so that their family values are always aligned and clear.