Many readers of this blog are entrepreneurs, either as their full time gig or a side hustle. We invest a lot of time thinking about the culture that we want to create in our startups and businesses. We understand that for a company to be successful it has to have a strong culture.
Young families are a lot like startups. I don’t know about you but when we had our first child I felt like I was running a startup; constant chaos, little sleep and lots of coffee.
A family, like a startup, is a collection of people that have a common goal (happiness and fulfillment in the case of a family) and spend a lot of time together working towards this goal.
Unfortunately we don’t invest nearly as much time and energy working on our family culture as we do our startup culture.
One reason for this is that family culture is not as tangible in the near term as some of our other tasks. Things like websites, brochures and sales show their fruits in a few days or weeks while family culture could take years to show fruits.
But if I were to ask you what would lead to greater satisfaction in your life, creating great company culture or great family culture, I am confident that many of you would chose the latter.
Great startups seek to establish great culture in their organizations. Great culture encourages employees to accept priorities and follow procedures by habit rather than power and coercion.
As parents, much like lousy managers, the easiest way to get our children to do what we want is to use power, “Stop Crying or you get no dessert”, or superficial motivation, “If you get in the car I will give you Fruit Snacks”. And there is a time and place where these methods are needed, but there will come a point, like teenage years, when this will no longer work. It is then that we will have wished that we spent more time building a stronger family culture.
Every family will little by little develop habits in the way they solve problems, spend time and relate to each other. This becomes their culture and just like companies this is built with intentionality.
Family culture is created either by design or default. It is up to you and your spouse to make it a culture that you want.
Family culture is built on three pillar: Ideals, Habits and Rituals.
Ideals are the foundation of our family culture. This is the framework with which our children will make decisions. If health is an ideal in our family then it will influence the food we buy, the activities we choose to do on the weekends and the time we go to bed. Through these activities we begin building the habit of a healthy lifestyle that becomes a healthy family culture. Other ideals can include: charity, service, religion, hard work, etc. Ideals are taught through habits and repetition. Kids pick up on the importance and priorities of our ideals in practice. If we choose to stay home and watch the New Orleans Saints game instead of going to church, our kids learn that sports and entertainment are more important than religion. This becomes our culture.
Habits are written or unwritten rules that guide our family life. They are our guiding principles in action. It is important to teach our children the reason behind the norms we have as a family. One of the norms in our house is that we don’t bring the IPad or IPhone to the table when eating. We make it clear that the reason we do this is because we want to spend time speaking with one another and that this leads to greater long term happiness than watching the Octonauts or Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Another norm we have is going to bed at 7:00 so that we can enjoy the next day’s activities being well rested.
Getting our younger children involved in our daily chores is a great way to create culture. My little guy, Brenner, loves to “help” unload the dish washer. It would be much easier for me to tell him to go and play so that I can get my work done but this is missing a great opportunity to create culture.
Family Rituals are structured activities that give us opportunities to put into practice our ideals. It is important for us to plan these out. We have to actively set up the situations where we will practice our ideals and build our habits.
A ritual that we started a few years ago is taking family hikes on nice days in the summer. Our family looks forward to our next outing each week. It gives us an opportunity to practice our ideals of healthy lifestyle, relationship building, family time and detachment from electronics.
We also have the ritual of family night prayers. After dinner, brushing our teeth and reading bed time story, we all gather and give thanks to God for all the good things we experienced in our day and ask for forgiveness for the times we came up short. We are putting into practice our Ideal of religion.
We are by no means perfect in practicing our rituals but we have them in place and we constantly strive to practice them.