We have a plaque hanging on our kitchen wall which has a picture of a mother leaning over to talk to her children. The inscription reads “Remember as far as anyone one knows, we’re a normal family”. Of course it’s meant to be funny and, as we all know, there is no such thing as a normal family. Families come in all shapes and sizes and, while all face similar joys and challenges on the journey, there is also something distinctly unique about each family unit.
Often the things that make each family unique are not easily definable. They can be thought of as a set of core values or beliefs that give direction to our parenting and home life. Maybe you’ve never given any thought to what guides and directs your parenting. The problem is that children learn so much from the way we are at home and the way they experience the real us when nobody else is looking, and it is at those times that our true self becomes visible and those things that are important to us come to the fore.
For example, if one of your core values as a family is integrity, your children will see this in the way you talk to others. If they see you saying one thing to someone’s face and then later on hear you speaking badly about them to your spouse, they will learn that integrity is not that important to you. On the other hand, if they see that you are willing to take the first step to make up with each other after an argument they will see that peace-making and forgiveness are things that you value highly. As is so often the case with children, they will only pick up and replicate the values that you are actually living out. It’s no good telling them what your values are if you are not living them out on a daily basis. And it is in this that can we turn to Jesus, looking at what He values and for guidance on how to act these out, so that we can attempt to do the same.
It may be worth taking some time to talk through with your spouse what you think your core values are as a family, and what you would like them to be. One word of caution though, as this can be quite revealing. We once asked our children what they thought our core values were as a family, or in other words what did they think were the things that were most important to us. One of them replied that they thought putting your shoes on the shoe rack was something we thought was very important. I think I may have been a bit over-enthusiastic in my bid to keep the hall floor clear of clutter that week!