4 Steps to Discovering Your Core Family Values

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Inside: Values are incredibly important for a child's development and sense of belonging. This post will walk you through the benefits of core family values, give family values examples, how a teacher can implement these same concepts in developing classroom values. You can also download a free family values toolkit for you to download when you subscribe! 

Discovering My Core Family Values

Every night, we eat dinner together as a family. Often, it may not be until close to 7:30 at night. Sometimes it’s a home-cooked meal or take-out. We are together around a table, communicating regardless of what we are eating. Next to our kitchen table are lockers. This is where we have a few boxes of conversation starters. More often than not, one of my boys will grab a pack of cards, place them on the center of the table and pull one out so we can answer the question individually. 

Here are some favorite questions: 

  • If you could wake up tomorrow and be anything in the world? 
  • When have you done something that you thought you couldn’t do? 
  • What is one thing you wish your parents knew about you that they do not know? 

In addition to the conversation starters, we also have a few other card games. There is one in particular that my five-year-old grabs often. We all put a card with a picture on it on our heads and have others give us clues as to what it is. We have used the pictures so many times that my older boys have changed them up in various ways to make them more engaging and fun. The result is typically a whole lot of laughter. 

We also try to sneak in some conversation around gratitude. Sometimes my boys are ready to share, and other times they are not, so we don’t push it. Dinner time is dedicated to being…being together, being safe, and being our whole selves. 

A mom and three boys running down the street in Charlotte, NC.

Defining Your Values

When I think about our dinner-time ritual, I can’t help but see our family values sprinkled throughout this daily experience. There is a lot of research about the importance of family dinners, but honestly, I try to focus on what I see inside the walls of my home. Having strong values positively impacts my boys as they develop and grow. We live out our values and sometimes even talk about them, but I stumbled across some research on how it’s essential to write down core values, and it got my wheels turning! 

 Stanford Psychologist Kelly McGonigal's book, The Upside of Stress, states,

"It turns out that writing about your values is one of the most effective psychological interventions ever studied. In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after a stressful experience."

She was referring to personal core values, but I think this can be applied to core family values and classroom values in a school or microschool.

Many of our microschools at Prenda have a particular culture that the Guide cultivates. Doing this practice can help solidify that culture even more. As individuals, core values are influenced by the generations before us regardless of whether you adopt their beliefs and values or not. Writing down what you believe in and value in life can help your kids in many ways. The values can be used as a guide for the choices and decisions they make. What’s even more powerful is to include your children or students in the process is even more powerful, especially as they begin to mold and shape into adults themselves. 

A study that explored critical questions about what role the family plays in children's personal identity found that only 3/10 families wrote down their core family values. I’m not sure what the percentage is for classrooms, but I can’t imagine it’s much different. 

Let's change that! Below, you will find a step-by-step guide on discovering and recording your family and/or class’s values. This includes many family values examples and ideas so you don't have to search for them.

Download Your Free Family Values List and Worksheet here! 

writing down family values

How To Discover Your Values

"Families are the compass that guides you. They are the inspiration to reach great heights. and our comfort when we occasionally falter." ~Brad Henry. I would stretch this to include the community you are part of. I demonstrate this in the statements below: 

The strong values embedded within a family and community help people reach great heights and provide comfort. Ultimately, values are the glue that holds families and communities together and a guiding light that affects decisions, choices, and actions.

There are multiple steps you can take to discover your family values. Once you identify what they are, it’ll be effortless to write them down and hang them up in an area of your home or classroom that everyone sees daily. Are your kids or students fighting? Refer to your values. Do your kids want to do something you disapprove of? Refer to your values. Are your students saying mean words? Refer to your values. You just said something rude to someone? Refer to your values on how to correct.

Do kids want to join a military cadet program? Do you find yourself wanting to check social media all day long? Do your kids want to have a sleepover? Are your students running around like their heads are on fire? Do you want your students to dance and be free while learning? I think you know the answer by now!

Microschool students in an Arizona backyard throwing scarves in the air while listening to classical music.

4 Steps to Discovering Core Family Values (and Classroom Values, Too!)

Don’t forget that this is not a one-and-done activity. Remember, the process of identifying your family values can be ongoing as your family dynamics change and children grow older.

Download the Family Values Toolkit here! 

Step 1: Discuss at your family meeting + brainstorm. 

Add family values to your family meeting agenda or schedule a special family time where discussing values is the sole topic. Or better yet, start the conversation at dinner or lunchtime.

If you’re doing this step for your class, this is a perfect Connect activity to start the day with. Make sure EVERYONE, even brand new talkers, has the chance to voice their opinion. Here are some bullet points to discuss regarding family values:

Ask Yourselves these questions: 

*These are adapted from Rachel at A Mother Far From Home:

  • What qualities do you value in other families, celebrities, or friends?
  • How do you want everyone to feel when you all are at home?
  • How do you spend your time together and apart?
  • Are there character flaws in others that drive us bananas?
  • What do we find ourselves repeating over and over again? (Besides, "Get your shoes on!")

Reflect on the values you and your partner grew up with.

Write down ideas and words that you feel emanated from your parents and community in your childhood. 

Do you know what sticks out the most when I reflect on my child and teenhood? Family dinners! Although my dad worked 9 am - 9 pm most days, and we were all involved in activities, we ate around that dinner table almost every night. I continue to do it in my family because of its profound impact on developing my character. 

Something else that comes up for me is having to call my dad from a payphone at every different location I went to after a football game. What that communicated was his value for my safety. My husband's family went on cool trips around the country, so exploration, adventure, and family togetherness came up strong for him. This is why he puts blood, sweat, and tears into maintaining our travel trailer to camp over 50 days a year!

Think about what you did and your parents' advice while you lived with them. And if you are putting together community or classroom values, think about what stuck out to you during your education journey. 

How do you spend your time together and apart? Have everyone yell out what you do together as a family or class. When I did this, I heard, “Play basketball. Go on family bike rides! Camp! Ride dirt bikes. Play games. Do crafts together. Cook. Homeschool…” Next, focus on what the kids are doing on their own. 

Kids building a biodome together

Discuss major life decisions everyone has made.

Think back to your big choices individually or as a family. In January 2020, we let our kids make their own decision to leave traditional school and attend Prenda microschools instead. Our friends and family weren’t so sure of our decision. However, that single decision completely changed trajectories in all of our lives to where they are today. Their education path is different, and I get to work for a company that is entirely in alignment with my personal core values. Also, all of our mental health is much better for it! From that decision alone, examples of our core family values include having autonomy, starting with heart, being creative and innovative, and being spontaneous. 

Step 2: Write Out a Mission Statement

This can be easy. Go on Pinterest and search “family mission statements.” Then find one you like and tweak it to fit your values. We have this free printable to help with this step! There is a place right in the middle to include your mission statement!

Step 3: Point out Strengths and Weaknesses

Figure out what you do well as a family or class and other areas where you could improve. Make sure you're pointing out more strengths than weaknesses. Also, acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses that everyone displays; try to avoid only pointing out your kids' flaws.

Read Next: How to Motivate Kids Without Praise or Rewards

Step 4: Use a List of Values

The last step is to write down your values! The easiest way to do this is to use a list as a reference. Click here for a free list of values! 

Family and Community Values Categories

When looking at multiple lists of core values; I kept noticing that they fit into specific categories.

family values list

Values can be broken down into these categories:
  • Spiritual, Faith, Morals and Ethics
  • Social - Friends and Family
  • Work and Play
  • Education
  • Time
  • Character
  • Financial
  • Health
  • Entertainment and Technology

Display Your Values For All To See

Once you have nailed down what your values are, either type them up or write them down on your Family Values poster! Our poster is hanging on our command center in our kitchen to have easy access and visibility. Besides writing them down and looking at them, make sure you live your values daily. Refer to them often and allow them to shape your kids.

Grab Your Free Family Values Toolkit

Fill out the form below to get your free toolkit. Included are a big list of family values examples, a poster to hang on your fridge or command center, and a poster that can be used for your classroom community values!

Family mission statement and family values printable

What Are Your Family or Microschool’s Values?

Each day I share a special moment with my boys. I'm thankful we value kindness, collaboration, cooperation, and love. I hope you found this valuable and will start incorporating values into your family.

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