Have you ever tried to search for something, but you didn’t quite know where to start? The other day my kids wanted me to find a certain nonsensical song on my phone. I was stumped. How do I begin finding this song that has words I don’t even know how to spell? I even tried singing the song to Siri, who presented to me a classical song I was certain wasn’t the song my kids were wanting. I felt at such a disadvantage — knowing something was needed, but not knowing where and how to look.
One of the most crucial searches a family can engage in is finding their core family values. Core family values are a handful of values that are shared by all family members. While every family member holds their own unique set of values, intentional families are joined by a set of values that link them together. Core Family Values become the avenue by which families better understand their collective identity.
For Intentional Families, these core values help them determine each element of their Intentional Family Plan — from setting goals to daily rhythms, from allocating resources and evaluating their progress. You see, when families are aware of their core family values, they have better clarity for what is truly important to them. Core Family Values become the foundation from which families can make better decisions.
Core Family Values become the foundation from which families can make better decisions.
But finding core family values is not easy. Most families don’t know they need to be searching for their core values, let alone know how to find them. The road to identity is neither linear nor prescribed. Because each family has a unique identity and plan, their journey in finding their core family values will be unique. Our research suggests that intentional families seek out, and even stumble upon, their core family values.
In the book Becoming & Belonging, the Scandrette family shares their journey to identity. If I had to define the Scandrette family’s journey to identity, I would call it purposeful. They actively searched for their family identity and core values by gathering resources and seeking wisdom of families they respected. They read books, listened to stories, and processed through everything they read, heard, and saw about family life. They paved a relatively uncharted yet focused path in order to identify and adopt their core family values.
Some Intentional Families uncover their core family values in less purposeful ways. These families come face-to-face with their core family values when stumbling through unexpected hardships in family life–including diagnosis, disaster, divorce, or death. These events have a way of stripping us bare of everything but what really matters, exposing what we truly value and the identity we want. For my family, the diagnosis of a life-long, life-threatening disease in our oldest child at the age of 4 proved to us that we couldn’t be content with just being a healthy family. We had to be an intentional family. We had to do life on purpose.
Regardless of whether you seek or stumble your way into your core family values, ultimately what is most important is that you find your family core values.
The key takeaway here is that regardless of whether you seek or stumble your way into your core family values, ultimately what is most important is that you find them. Knowing your core families will revolutionize your family life. Identifying and living by your core family values will help you set goals and make decisions as a team because you know what your family is about and where you are headed.
As you embark on the Intentional Family Process, we invite you to begin exploring your core family values. We encourage you to explore the resource What’s Important to My Family, a values exercise developed by the Barrett Values Centre. We have also posted some questions on the Step One: Recognize Your Family Identity page to guide you in the process of discovering your core family values.
Written by Nicole McAninch, PhD, CFLE, Senior Lecturer of Child & Family Studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.