When we were asked to take part in “Living your values every day”, we thought it would be a quick and easy project. Well, it was not that straight forward after all… it turns out we have been taking our values for “granted”. We never sat down and listed them out, defined them, much less talked about them at any length.
At first it was a little tough choosing the values that we wanted to focus on for this project, there are so many values and none of them are “bad”. My wife and I both came up with a list of values that we prioritize (thankfully we agreed on them all). As we worked through the list of values, we noticed that some we were already living daily and others we really haven’t – hopefully working through this project will help us improve purposefully living those neglected values.
Once we had our list, we thought of a way to display them in our home. We hope that this would help us be reminded of our values and decided to create a “value tree” for this purpose. We will use the tree’s trunk, branches, and leaves to help portray our family’s categorized values. Hopefully, creating our value tree will also engage our children in this project and help them understand and remember the values that we as a family would like to focus on every day.
(We will post an actual image when we are done creating the tree as a family.)
We chose to start this journey by taking the following steps:
1. Talked to the kids about values and what they value.
2. We (the parents) discussed our value systems and identified five core values (or, perhaps value families) that we would like to focus on as a family.
3. Planned an initial approach to living our values daily from both a monthly and weekly approach.
4. Talked with the kids again to have them provide input to the weekly goals we, the parents, set.
In the first step, I (mom) took charge of the conversation, mostly due to my educational/professional background (you can read more about that in the upcoming post, “Meet the Families”) and because my husband tends to talk about values from a big, historical perspective that little minds have a hard time wrapping themselves around 😉
Good, albeit surprising, news is that we have been living our values to some extent…or at least talking about them enough that our kids picked something up. All four kiddos identified “family” as being a value, with all but the youngest also identifying helping others (animals and/or people in need) as a second important value. They all suggested spending more time with family and friends as a way to more purposefully live their identified values.
Interestingly, the two oldest both voiced some concern
over how this new family endeavor, living our values everyday, might impact or change their lives and worries over it feeling like additional chores. To which I replied, “It should change our lives, but it should be for the better.” They seemed to buy it…let’s hope I was right!
That discussion out of the way, with the kids top values identified, it was time for my husband and I to come to a consensus. I knew it would be tough, mostly due to our differing views of the time frame in which values matter–he sees it through a historical and cultural lens while I view it through a much smaller familial lens. So, I did what one should always do when expecting a long night of deep thought and conversation; I cracked open a bottle of rose and grabbed my favorite pen and got comfy on the couch. Here is what we came up with, after repeated (and probably annoying) questioning on my part to encourage my husband to actually identify specifics in values and not just use overarching words like “Culture” and “Faith”. This seems to be the difficulty in discussing values, we use value-based, ambiguous words, and try to make these words hold similar meanings and intrinsic worth for everyone–it just doesn’t work that way. We came up with five core values (or value families) that we would like to instill in our children, all of which house many secondary values. The use of value families will allow us to live the values utilizing various approaches aiming at various secondary values. Here is what we came up with:
*Kith and Kin: family, both immediate and extended, and family of choice, through prioritizing, spending meaningful time with, and engaging in supportive relationship building.
*Learning: structured and unstructured, critical thinking, modeling and encouraging questioning–even of authority, increasing curiosity, formal and informal educational experiences
*Duty to Community: aiding in development of others, giving to others, identifying and using your gifts to support others, identifying needs of community and feeling empowered to do something
* Spirituality: moral code, faith, religiosity, meaning in things greater than ourselves and awareness of our place in world
*Personal Development: always seeking to better self, health, wellness, diet, exercise, learning, growth inwards, upwards, and outwards
With those five value families; I feel that we have more than enough to keep us busy over the next year as we attempt to live our values everyday. Though I wanted to be my typical overachiever self and try to live each every month, my husband pulled me back to reality and suggested starting with one value family at a time and purposely implementing it for a month then reviewing and revisiting.
We chose to start with “Kith & Kin” and made the goal of spending time each weekend in a purposeful activity with our children; one in which we are completely emotionally, intellectually, and physically present in our interactions with them. That means no phones, no movie night, no kids doing their thing while we hang back and do ours. Not that those activities are wrong or bad, just that they were not as purposeful in supporting the value of kith & kin as we wanted.
We again went to the kids and had a family discussion regarding “what would you like mama and dada to do with you guys this weekend?” This is a discussion we plan to have every weekend in September with the goal of creating an experience for the kids each weekend that highlights and embodies the value of kith & kin based on their input.
Week 1? the local farm park’s corn maze!
We’ll check-in in about a month and let you all know how it went attempting to live the value of kith & kin purposefully this month.
Much like identity is often not completely and purposely formed, neither are our values. Most of us have been indoctrinated by generations of “this is how we do it, it’s how it has always been done.” However, living that way has left me feeling lost, and purposeless. I get caught up in the day to day grind, the endless days of cooking, cleaning, bedtimes, laundry and I realize that something is missing. What is my purpose? My family’s purpose? How are we teaching our children that there are things in life that are more important than cooking, cleaning and laundry? How are we teaching them to get the most out of life while also giving the most? Are we truly living and teaching our values and how to live them?
I found myself asking what are our values as a family? Hell, what are values? We throw the word around ALL the time. We judge others and ourselves by our values, make big life-altering decisions, fight wars, choose life-mates, and die by our values. But, what are they? Where do they come from? How are they transferred from generation to generation? I know the big, easy answers to these questions, but not sure how it works in my life, with my family, on a daily basis.
And, that is the challenge for us, and for each of you, should you choose to accept it: to understand our own value systems, identify those specific values we want to hold onto and pass on to the next generation, and to purposely teach and live those values.