Family values involve all the ideas of how you want to live your family life, and they are often passed down from previous generations. They can help define behavior in various situations, help youth make good choices, and solidify the bond that your family has. If your family doesn't already have these values in place, know that it is never too late to make a list.
Types of Values
Although every family's list of values will be different, there are different categories of values that tend to be similar.
Social values consist of things like peace, justice, freedom, equality, and bettering our community. Examples of social values include:
- Not hurting others and also standing up for those who can't stand up for themselves
- Being respectful and courteous in your interactions
- Volunteering time and skills in the community
- Being generous with what you have
- Being honest with others
- Participating in teamwork whenever possible
Although being a liberal, conservative, or moderate may determine your opinion on how the government should run and what laws should be enacted, there are certain political values that remain constant across political parties. American values often include:
- Exceptionalism - that America is a land of limitless opportunities and, as such, has a duty to act as an example to other countries.
- Capitalism and private ownership of property
Treating everyone equally, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, or sexual orientation
Being open-minded to new things
Following the law and respecting those who enforce it
Working hard for success
Religious values center around the expectations that people have about themselves and others based on the beliefs of their faith. Although each faith has its beliefs, there are common values that many faiths tend to share. Examples of religious values include:
- Showing compassion to those in need
- Treating others as one would like to be treated
- Continually learning and growing both spiritually and intellectually
- Being modest in your relations with others
- Being respectful and nonviolent when interacting with others
Work values include such things as your philosophies about your job, your finances, and how you spend your money. For children, these values include how they approach school and their education. Examples of work values include:
- Always doing your best work
- Working in a team
- Saving a portion of your salary/allowance
- Finding opportunities to express your ideas and creativity
- Being proud of your achievements
- Making education a priority
- Keeping in mind the part that your job plays in society
- Treating co-workers, fellow students, customers, and authority figures the way that you want to be treated
Moral values are your individual values about what you think is right and wrong. Moral values provide the foundation from which you make decisions. Morals are learned from your parents and your experiences. Examples of moral values include:
- Being honest and trustworthy
- Being courageous
- Never giving up
- Adding value to the world
- Being patient
- Taking personal responsibility
Recreational values refer to anything that involves fun and play. Recreation is important in the family because it fosters closeness in the family, opportunities for learning, creating memories, improving social skills, and developing empathy. Examples of recreational values include:
- Providing unstructured play time
- Having family game nights
- Allowing and encouraging each family member to pursue interests
- Taking vacations together
- Spending time together outside playing
Tips for Making Your Family's List
Sitting down as a family and coming up with a list of values can seem like a daunting task. However, know that there is not one right way to come up with your list. Start by calling a family meeting and getting input from each family member. Know that it may take several meeting sessions to get all the thoughts down. However, in the end, you'll have a list that truly reflects your family. The following tips should help you develop a list that you and your kids can stand by:
- Consider writing a motto or mission statement that addresses your core family value, whether it be peacefully resolving conflict, being kind and loyal or working hard.
- Talk about your family. What things are most important to your family? What are the strengths of your family? What words or phrases best describe your family?
- Write down everything. You can always go back and narrow the list later. The first session is about brainstorming.
- Allow everyone to think about it for a while before reconvening to agree on a list.
- Stick to ten major ideas. Your final list can have more or less, but ten is a workable number to aim for without being overwhelming.
- Display your list. Hang your values list up somewhere where it will be seen every day.
- Refer to the list when things happen. Use your family's list of values as a teaching tool.
- Rewrite as necessary. The list may grow and evolve over time, just as your family changes.
Sample Family Values List
Although every family's list of values will be different, the following is an example of a family values list:
- Think of the consequences before you act
- Follow the guidelines of religion
- Discuss right and wrong when modern values clash with traditional values
- Spend time together as a family, but also pursue individual interests
- Live these values, don't just talk about them
- Treat others (both inside and outside of the family) with compassion and respect
- Put your best effort toward every task
- Always continue to learn
- Learn from failures
- Celebrate successes
- Use money to do, rather than to buy
- Treat pets as family
- Remember to not always act on feelings
- Show love every day
- Sever relationships with disrespectful people
- Treat others' possessions with care and respect
- Listen since all opinions are important
- Always strive to maintain safety
- Be honest
Traditional Values Versus Modern Values
Family values tend to be reflective of the culture and time period and can be seen shifting throughout history depending on the environment. Traditional values tended to emphasize the extended family unit when more families were living and working together. With modernization, family values can be seen shifting to an emphasis on independence and development versus togetherness.
Society's Impact on Values
As society becomes more technologically advanced, the family values will change to reflect that on a cultural level. When families worked together prior to the industrial revolution, there was more shared time together and most likely extended family lived with each other or very close by to make their work life more convenient. Post industrial revolution families had the option to be more spread out and independent from each other thus shifting the emphasis on the extended family system unit and welcoming in the nuclear family dynamic.
Shift in Gender Roles, Gender Fluidity, and Sexuality
Traditional versus modern gender roles can be reflected in society and have impacted family values. Many women were once encouraged to stay at home and raise families while men went out into the workforce. This notion has drastically shifted as both men and women, regardless of having children, are able to have jobs as society has normalized women in the workforce. During the rise of the nuclear family men and women were encouraged to raise children that reflected the perfect nuclear family. Television, ads, and consumer products reflected this societal drive. This atmosphere put a strict adherence on gender roles and rigid sexuality. Gender fluidity and sexual fluidity is much more accepted in society today and the culture and family values may reflect that. Although not a perfect system, creating family values based upon acceptance with an emphasis on learning can help create a more open and loving familial environment where everyone feels accepted, whereas the nuclear family era certainly did not encourage that on a large scale.
Updating Your Family Values
Your family values can be changed at any time, especially if the goal is to create an environment of inclusivity. Family values can be selected by the parent or parents, or children can also be included in making the decisions if they are old enough to participate. Because the family values are supposed to be reflective of the family as a unit, it's a good idea to encourage the younger family members to participate in these discussions so the values mean something to everyone in the family, not just the adults.
Your List Should Reflect Your Family
Your family's list should be unique to your family. If you are a spiritual family, your list should be more spiritual. If you are an informal, fun-loving family, your list should reflect that. If part of your family's greatest moments involve random dancing in your pajamas, then random pajama dancing or general goof-ballery may be a part of your list. Anything that is important for the health and well-being of your family should be a part of your family's value list, no matter the activity or the language used to describe it.