Family Stories and Mission Statements
This is my new goal: Make a family mission statement, then attach several anecdotes from our family’s past that exemplify the values and principles outlined in our mission (honesty, hard work, etc). This is a work in progress but I will update the blog as we go along.
Why do I want to do this? Well, I learned a couple years ago that sharing family stories with our children can be more than just an interesting pastime, when I read the article “The Stories that Bind Us.” Bruce Feiler detailed some of the findings of psychologists Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush of Emory University about children who knew stories of their family’s history.
Their research showed that children who scored high on their “Do You Know Scale:”
- Tended to do better than other children when they faced challenges.
- Proved to be more resilient and able to moderate the effects of stress.
- Had a stronger sense of control over their lives.
- Had higher self-esteem.
Why Do Family Stories Help Children?
Children gain insights into how to deal with the situations they encounter in life through family stories. From Feiler’s article in the NY Times,
Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.
Being part of a family that talks about their ups and downs is the most helpful “narrative” for helping children develop resilience. Feiler said,
The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.
Strong Family Narratives
Strong family narratives focus on families sticking together despite difficult circumstances – making it through the rough times and coming out stronger and closer together.
Feiler discussed the idea that strengthening families can be done by following the example of many companies and other groups who make mission statements to explain what their group is about. Stephen R. Covey, known for encouraging companies, individuals and families to create mission statements, wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families,
A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about – what it is you really want to do and be – and the principles you choose to govern your family life.
To make a family mission statement, Covey, writing on his blog, suggests:
Identify what kind of family you want to be. For instance, what qualities define your family, what kinds of feeling do you want in your home, how do you want to build relationships? Get everyone involved in these questions and write something that describes your family and how you want to be.
Using the Franklin Covey Mission Statement Builder, I practiced making a mission statement.
Here’s a partial rough draft of what the Mission Statement Builder helped me come up with through answering guided questions:
As a family we are at our best when we are helping each other.
We will try to prevent times when we are selfish.
We will find more time with each other to work learn and play.
We will help each family member by supporting them and being kind.
We will help others by sharing our abilities and talents and being true friends.
We will fill our home with discovery.
We will make choices and decisions based on: kindness, loyalty, service, and love…
This is one way to get the juices flowing, but unless it’s done together as a family, it won’t be effective!
To add supporting family stories to your mission statement, ponder stories from your own life. Little kids like nothing better than to hear the words “when I was your age, just four years old, I fell down too and scraped my knee…”
As you think of these great stories, record them in the FamilySearch.org memories feature so your kids and grandkids can always read them. To see more ancestor stories that might support your family mission statement, go to “memories,” then click “stories.” You’ll see this list of the stories about your family that you and others have contributed:
Put your mission statement and the supporting stories into a binder to refer to. Post it on the wall. As Covey says,
The richest fruits come as you translate that mission into the very fabric of your family life, into the moments of your day-to-day living. And to do that you must keep it constantly before you, reflect upon it, and use it as the literal constitution of your family life.
Hooray for family mission statements!