I’ve never been to business school, but I believe that families can learn a lot from how successful businesses are run. One thing that contributes greatly to a thriving business is a strong sense of unified culture. Employees who buy-in to their employer’s work environment culture stay longer, work harder, and are their employer’s best advertisement. By stark contrast, those companies with detrimental cultures, or worse – lack of intentional cultures – have a hard time giving their employees a sense of worth or purpose in their jobs.
I have found the same to be true under my roof. As a family, our shared core belief (that Christ has saved us by GRACE), and our unique way of presenting the joy of living with faith in that belief has shaped how we do family. Our family’s “culture” and identity has had the effect of a downhill rolling snowball when it comes to influence and buy-in with our children.
Here are just a few of our culture characteristics:
We are JOYFUL. The most common comment I get from by-standers is that our children are so happy. Why wouldn’t they be? Yes a family this size is a lot of work, but if you had 16 people every day encouraging you, wouldn’t you be happy too? Our culture of encouragement and joy (because of a firm foundation in the love and grace of Jesus Christ) is our best advertisement for the King. As His subjects, we are JOYFUL.
We TALK. And talk. And talk to each other. The meals last for an hour, the talking around the table can last for three. Current events become teaching points, the “why” of what happened and the mindset that leads to decisions is something we discuss all the time. The children often have unique viewpoints and because of our relaxed atmosphere during these discussions, (no RUSHING out the door in the morning for school or other commitments), the children feel freedom to voice their opinions and viewpoints. I wouldn’t trade our morning devotionals for anything.
We LAUGH. Yes, toddlers and small children can be challenging, but before we lose our patience, we often find the humor. Even when I am getting onto someone, more times than not I interject humor into the situation. It usually keeps me from using bad words and my (sometimes) loud voice and harsh tone are lessened by the funny joke I throw into the mix.
We use movie lines. Sounds silly, but a family this much into film can have almost an entire conversation in code. Dozens of movie lines from hundreds of films can be strung together to speak in a different language—no one around us has a clue as to what we are talking about.
We give nick names. My dad used to do this all the time to my friends, so I guess it came naturally to me. The children have nick names, their friends have nicknames, the neighbors, and especially…the boys. Boys who have shown interest in any of my girls all get nicknames. And that is DEFINITELY a hat tip to my father. He LOVED to do that to me.
We are athletic. David is awesome at triathlon, I am just into fitness for fun. The kids get a perfect mix of competitiveness and cheerleading. The physical side of our family has contributed so much into our character training and spiritual lessons that we would not be the same without this part of our culture.
We dress alike, or at least coordinate. Sounds unimportant, but it brings simplicity and unity. When we had three small children, it was just easier for me to dress them all the same. But now that we have added to our family through adoption, I think dressing alike has contributed greatly to our cohesiveness.
“You can do anything” mentality. We never cast doubt on their dreams, we never throw water on their fire. The children want to do big things in life. Being so young, they rarely realize how difficult these visions or purposes will be. But that’s not my job as a parent—to throw their desires under a bus. It’s my job instead to ready them for a life of near back-breaking challenges and overcome-able obstacles, all the while speaking purpose, faith, and YOU CAN DO IT!
As you can see, some of these are philosophical, some of them are silly, some are practical. But they all add up to a “culture” that is uniquely ours and gives the family identity and distinctions. I challenge you this week to observe what things make up your family’s culture? What things would you like to see a part of your family’s culture? What things would you like to see REMOVED? Write them down, and share them here if you feel comfortable! This week, see what you can do to be intentional about culture and identity in your family. The role it plays can be far more significant than you imagine as the children age…Indeed your family’s culture can be the strongest defense against peer pressure and their biggest offense in leadership among their peer group.