Family mission statements represent the best opportunity for parents to make a concrete declaration about their family belief system. Families that have core belief systems, families that have identities, they say, “You’re a member of a tribe. You belong to this clan.”
Now family mission statements can take any one of a number of different forms. They can be the classic paragraph structure. They can be bullet-pointed. The might even be a poem or a photo, I say, which accurately reflects your family’s belief system.
But the best one that we’ve ever seen was a parent who told us, “All we do in our family is we tape a big piece of poster board to our refrigerator door. And at the top of it, it says, ‘How to be a Smith?’ And some of the things that they have as universal experiences as a family headline that list. “If you want to be a Smith, the entire family loves chicken and dumplings. So, in order to be a Smith, you have to love chicken and dumplings.” There were some in jokes that only the family would get. And so they would list those at the top as well.
Now as the document develops over time, you can start to add the more important social issues into that statement – things about drugs, about alcohol, about cheating, about lying.
It’s really important though, when you’re trying to develop the family mission statement – if you want to go with the classic paragraph formula not to invite your kids to sit down and work with you on the family mission statement. That’s like saying to them, “Why don’t you sit down with me for a couple of hours while I shove bamboo under your fingernails.”
If you want to develop a mission statement with your kids, maybe you need to get a little bit creative. Maybe you say to your kids, “Once a week, I want you to tweet me a statement about our family mission statement. We’ll build a Twitter family mission statement together.” And they’ll be less likely to run in terror if you offer that opportunity.