Setting goals can give our lives meaning, and a family mission statement can help you set those goals. Without a plan our lives seem to have no direction, and we often get frustrated. Imagine taking a trip without a road map. You would most likely get lost. Knowing where you are going and how to get there almost guarantees your success.
A road map is important for a second reason. It helps communicate to others your intentions. It not only guides you, but also your friends and family. A road map is an effective communication tool as well.
Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, encourages his readers to make a family mission statement. Similar to the actions of a CEO, parents are advised to set down their goals and define the meaning of their families from the start. I purchased his book while pregnant with my first child. At the time, I did not understand the importance of a family mission statement. That is, not until the other day.
Taking a single piece of paper, I asked my husband and children what they thought a family means. When thinking about this exercise, I envisioned my husband and me sitting at the breakfast table, writing down all the ideas and watching our children jump around the table and not listen as they customarily do when we are trying to teach them a lesson.
I imagined getting frustrated, raising my voice, and eventually giving up on the whole thing altogether. While I realized that was not the attitude to have, I felt anxious about how to convey the significance of the exercise. What happened next surprised us both.
It was astounding to watch my two- and four-year-old grasp the importance of our question. Instead of acting silly, my four-year-old daughter, Sophia, unfurled a list of things which blew my husband and me out of the water. Here were her answers:
Love, sharing, politeness, togetherness, no fighting, no biting, no pushing, listening, compassion, loving others, waiting for others, kissing, hugging, helping, kindness, brushing your teeth, and sharing.
I added quiet time, no whining, communication, cleaning up, patience, giving, and fairness.
My two-year-old son added fun. My husband inserted learning.
We wrote down the words, first in big letters, then smaller ones as the page filled up. Sophia colored in the words, and the sign now hangs on the wall in our breakfast nook where we spend a lot of time.
The lesson my children taught me is it is not hard to write a family mission statement at all. You need a piece of paper, some crayons or colored pencils, and one question: “What does ‘family’ mean to you?” Then sit back, listen, and write it down. It is as simple as that.
Christine Louise Hohlbaum, American author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, has been published in hundreds of publications. When she isn’t writing, leading toddler playgroups or wiping up messes, she prefers to frolic in the Bavarian countryside near Munich where she lives with her husband and two children.