Laura and Ezra Kyle create a family culture of outdoor fun by going on a bike ride together.
If you sat down and thought for a minute, I bet you could come up with words that describe your family. Maybe your family is innovative, open-minded, eccentric, loud, outdoorsy, musical, adventurous, talkative, ambitious, ethical, caring, generous, supportive, creative, loyal, silly, spontaneous or affectionate. Or maybe you all are just quiet and sweet, like us.
Each family has its own unique culture that develops over time whether they work on it or not. After days, months and years of doing certain things, those things turn into habits that recur without much thought. So it’s important to spend the days, months and years intentionally creating the family culture you want.
When you have small children in the house, the easiest way to lead is by example. If you want your children to value service and generosity, they need to see you modeling those traits as they grow. Think about the values you want your children to have as they grow, and consider whether you are demonstrating those values in your everyday life. You might want to change some habits and create some new ones.
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Our family puts nature pretty high on the list of things we value. We want our boys to find peace and clarity when they put technology aside and spend a few hours in the great outdoors. We want them to be adventurous, take healthy risks and see the world with a big-picture perspective. So we have to get out there, intentionally, on a regular basis, if we want to send that message. We have to talk about how much we love being outside and how it makes us feel, and then walk the walk.
We also value creativity. We have set the kids up with a home environment that inspires and encourages them to learn and to follow their interests. We model creativity when we write books, sew quilts, experiment in the kitchen and teach classes. And we give them tons of support and freedom to find what they love to do.
In addition to creating habits and fostering values, we put thought into family traditions. Traditions are the things we remember years from now — the things that we loved, the things that made us laugh, the things that drew us together as a family. Some traditions are super simple and silly, like making a dogpile on the bed, full of laughter and tickles. Some traditions don’t always happen annually, but come back when the time is right. We don’t do a polar bear swim every year, but the years that we do make up for the years that we don’t!
There’s the father/son backpacking trip in the fall, gingerbread house design and decorating at Christmastime and fruit-picking and applesauce-making every summer. We have burgers and allowance on Sundays and Kaisley and Baisley stories before bed. We often break into song, putting new lyrics to favorite tunes. We have code words for things and a secret handshake.
When the kids get a bit older, we’ll work together to craft a family mission statement. We want our children to really understand what we’re about, so they can get behind our decisions and be proud of our family. Having a strong family culture provides the positive identity that children so desperately need as they approach the teenage years. They’ll be confident, secure and loyal. They’ll think their family is pretty much the best ever.
So remember, just as we water our plants and take care of our pets, we need to invest time and thought into the workings of our families. Define your family culture, model and teach the things you value, and create traditions that will keep your family members close.
This topic, and others pertaining to happy families, are explored more fully in my e-book, entitled “Teach Me to Be Happy.” Find it at teachmetobehappy.com.
Laura Kyle and her husband Tim live in a little yellow house with their two sons. She blogs here about the reality of life — a desperate balancing act where tickles and games of chase meet laundry and healthful meals.