I am a mom of four kids, two of which are teenagers, and through the years I have learned that parenting is a balance of the well-planned, the well-intentioned, and the totally spontaneous. It’s impossible to know all the questions that your kids will ask or all the situations you will find yourself as parent. But, if you know your family values, then it is easier to respond to the unexpected questions and comments of your children.Often after conversations about values and beliefs at our house, the next questions and answers revolve around how to make our beliefs and values tangible, that is, how to turn our beliefs into actions. One of the ways to solidify your family’s action plan is a mission statement. I wish I could say that David and I sat down one day when our kids were young (or before we even had them) and wrote a mission statement that serves as our family guide. But, the truth is that we happened upon the things that formed our family’s mission statement; they were less a sitting down and exploring a statement to live by and more an extension of our beliefs expressed as actions and expectations. O.K., if I’m totally honest, they were basically the statements about what our family does (or should be doing) that we found ourselves repeating over and over again. Interesting enough, we don’t even actually call our action plan a mission statement…we call it ‘The Simon Family Rules.’ And, the reason for that, is that at the time, our kids could relate better to the idea of our family rules than they could to the phrasing ‘mission statement.’
The Simon Family Rules have become a driving force in assisting us with individual choices and an empowering force for relational accountability. One year, I had them made into canvas artwork for our home as a family Christmas Gift. They hang in our foyer. They serve as a family compass and symbol of who we are…or at least who we desire to become. Recently over the dinner table, a brief conversation of estate planning ensued and our oldest child interrupted to interject that he was calling ‘dibs’ on the Simon Family Rules. And suddenly, each of our kids was trying to justify why they should get them. I was stunned and overwhelmed and even a little proud. ‘Oh don’t worry, you don’t have to fight…I’ll have more canvases made, you can each have one to take with you when you have a home of your own.” Just like that, our mission statement had turned into the beginnings of a legacy for the next generation.
Now, before you get the idea that we have it all figured out, I must remind you that we did this on accident and that our list isn’t the “right” one, it’s just the one that works for us. I also must admit that it stings when the kids hold me accountable for breaking a rule. But, that sting is worth it to teach our kids about healthy relationships with each other and how those relationships are born out of our relationship with God.
The bottom line of mission statements, action plans, or rules is that you will have one (on purpose or on accident). Further, your kids will develop their beliefs and their actions based on your beliefs and actions, and how they are lived out. So, be intentional, whether you discover your family mission statement in one day or one decade, your beliefs will turn into actions and actions have outcomes. My humble challenge to you is to choose your action plan and write it down. Don’t stress about what to call it, what it looks like, or whether you put it on canvas, notebook paper, or a napkin. Just have one.
Consider taking this year to draft, edit and hopefully settle on what is most important to your family. If you already have a mission statement or action plan please share it with the group!
For any who are interested, here are our Simon Family Rules:
- Love and Encouragement in action, word, and deed. (Often heard: Was that love or encouragement you were modeling? Which may also indicate why my children understand sarcasm)
- Say your prayers.
- Keep your promises.
- Play hard, Work hard.
- Don’t compromise on Character.
- Do it to Standard (Mom: Is your room clean? Child: yes. Mom: To Standard? Child: Uhhhhh, not quite. Mom: Then it’s not clean.)
- Chase your Dreams.
- Respect Others.
- Simons Never Quit.
- Tell the Truth and Obey.
- Apologize and Ask Forgiveness.
- To Whom Much is Given…Much is Required.
Sharon Simon is a wife, mother of four kids (ages 17, 15, 9 and 6), a Family Nurse Practitioner, and a community volunteer. She enjoys reading, running, and genealogy research. She grew up in the area, currently lives in Fairfax, and attends our Ballston Campus.