wikiHow to Define Your Family Values

Three Parts:Reflecting on Your PrioritiesCommunicating With Your FamilyImplementing Your Values

Your values are your moral and ethical principles. Values are often a guide for the decisions you make and how you choose to live your life. You most likely have a pretty good sense of what your individual values are. It can be a little more complex to try to define your family values, since there are more people to consider. However, with reflection and communication, you can find effective ways to define your family values.

Part 1
Reflecting on Your Priorities

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    Deconstruct your family and personal values. Values are both important and personal, but few people actually choose their own values. Instead, most people follow the values that were learned in childhood. To deconstruct your values, think about your childhood and determine what values you absorbed.[1]
    • Think about specific values. For example, did your parents value religion, education, or wealth? How much did that impact your formative years?
    • Consider asking your parents to discuss their values with you. Ask them what they considered to be the family values, and ask how they integrated them into your development.
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    Reflect on major life choices. Once you have thought about your earlier values, take some time to consider whether you have retained the same ideas throughout your life. Reflect on the major decisions you have made in your life. Does your family life reflect the values you originally had? Or have you evolved as you've gotten older? Questions such as these can help you define your values.[2]
    • You can also reflect on your career choice. For example, if fighting for social justice is a core value of yours, have you chosen a career path, such as social work, that integrates that value?
    • One way to figure out what your values are is to examine how you spend your money. Does most of it go towards entertainment? Travel? Or do you give a lot to charities or political causes?
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    Consider common values. Make a list of all of the values that are important to you. This is a great way for all of your family members to think about values. Ask each family member who can write to make a list. Your family can then rank the values on each list to help you define which are the most important to all of you.[3]
    • Common values include: honesty, balance, caring, generosity, health, humor, learning, wisdom, leadership, and compassion.
    • Think about your family as you consider values such as cooperation, financial stability, humility, and patience.[4]
    • Try thinking about the values in terms of categories. For example, your categories could include: Personality, Career, Family, Friends, Health. Try looking at the list of values and figuring out which category to put them in. This organization can lead to clarity about what matters most to you.

Part 2
Communicating With Your Family

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    Ask questions. Once you have spent some time thinking about your personal values, it's time to figure out how to integrate them with the rest of your family. In order to do that, you all need to effectively communicate with each other. Begin the process by asking questions.[5]
    • Ask your family to join you for a discussion about values. Begin by asking open ended questions such as, "What is most important to our family?"
    • You can also try, "What brings you happiness? How does that affect our family?"
    • Other good questions to ask include, "What makes you most proud about our family?" or "What do you look forward to when you come home?"
    • You could also try "What embarrasses you about our family?" and "What does our family provide for you that you don't get from friends?"
    • Consider having each family member answer these questions individually. Then you can openly and honestly compare answers.
    • Encourage your family members to ask questions, too.
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    Be a good listener. During your family discussion, it is important that you all practice good listening skills. To indicate that you are listening, ask follow up questions. For example, if your partner says he values honesty, ask him how that can become more of a focus for the family.[6]
    • You can also use non-verbal cues to indicate that you are listening. Nod your head when someone is speaking, and smile to indicate you appreciate what is being said.
    • Try to limit interruptions. Ask everyone to put away their cell phones and turn off the tv while you are having this important conversation.
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    Solidify your family values. Once you have spent some time discussing your family values and enjoying quality time together, you can begin the process of more clearly defining your family values. Take some time to sit down together and make a list of the values that are most important. You can think of these values as firm guidelines that your family is agreeing to live by.[7]
    • Writing things down can help your family gain mental clarity about shared values.[8]
    • Try writing down items such as "help society" or "religion/spirituality" or "honest communication with family members".
    • Try having each family member choose 3-4 values that they feel are most important. Combined, this will give you a manageable number of values to put on your permanent list.
    • For example, you could choose "Safety" as one of the primary values for your family. Each family member could then indicate how they will stick to this value. You could pledge to always drive the speed limit. Your daughter could promise to always wear a helmet when riding her bike.
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    Make sure your children are involved. Treat defining your family values as a family decision. If your children are a little older, such as teenagers, make sure they feel like they are an important part of the process. Say things such as, "We value your input. How do you feel about including education as one of our primary family values?"[9]
    • You can also encourage your kids to explain their opinions. Try saying, "What do you like about this choice? Why do you think adding humor as a family value is the best option?"[10]
    • If your children are still pretty young, you can find other ways to get them involved. Try having them draw a picture of the things they love about your family.
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    Write a mission statement. Once you have reflected on your values and discussed them with your family, you should have a good idea of how to define your family values. One way to solidify them is to write a mission statement. This is a document that indicates what your family values and can also include goals. The mission statement is a formal declaration of the values you share as a family.[11]
    • Write down what the purpose of your family is and a strategy for making sure that you remain focused on that purpose.
    • Try writing an introduction that states why your family is choosing these particular values. You can talk about how your family is committed to these values in order to help promote good life choices. The introduction doesn't have to be long, just a paragraph will do.
    • List the values. You can organize them by categories such as Health, Happiness, Balance, and Stability. Then, you can indicate your family strategy for sticking to each of these values.[12]
    • You can print the mission statement and have it framed. Having it hang in your home is a good way to remind each of you of what is truly important to your family.

Part 3
Implementing Your Values

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    Think of your values daily. Take a few minutes every day to check in with yourself. At the end of each day, you can ask yourself questions. Try thinking, "How did my actions today relate to Value #1? How about Value #2?" This will only take a few minutes of your time, but can be very helpful in keeping your values front and center.[13]
    • Ask all of the members of your family to adopt this habit. Once you have a mission statement that is easily accessible, it will be easy for everyone to reference the list of values on a daily basis.
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    Stay connected as a family. You can do this by making sure to spend quality time together. The more time that you spend together, the more shared experiences you will have as a family. Spending quality time with each other will allow you to get to know one another better. This will help you figure out what matters most to each of you individually, and as a family.[14]
    • Schedule time for the whole family to spend together. It can be as simple as eating dinner together, or something like devoting a whole Saturday to family activities.
    • Let each member of the family have input in your activities. For example, if your daughter loves to exercise, try taking a hike together.
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    Make positive life choices. Your values are an important part of your decision-making process. Keep your family values in mind before making any big life choices. For example, if a family value is education, make sure to live in an area with good schools.[15]
    • Make life choices part of a family discussion. Before major changes are made, call a family meeting to discuss how the potential change aligns with your family values.
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    Model your values. The best way to integrate your family values into your daily life is to make sure that your actions reflect those values. Make sure that the choices you make are in line with what you consider to be your most important family values.[16]
    • If your number one family value is honesty, make sure that you are candid and truthful. Apply this value to your work life and your social life.
    • Modeling is the best way to help children learn values. For example, if you value respect, show your kids how to be respectful by always addressing other people with consideration.
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    Use family values to work on family goals. Values are important because they can help determine your choices and your actions. When you are thinking about family values, it is useful to also consider your family goals. Your values will likely play a big role in how you go about accomplishing those goals.[17]
    • Is learning one of your family values? Think about translating that into a concrete goal. Think about the steps you can take to focus on learning as a family. For example, you could all learn a new language together or take a cooking class. This will integrate your family values and goals.
    • If financial responsibility is a family value, you could use that guiding principle to make sure that each family member understands the importance of sticking to a budget. That way, you can accomplish family goals of saving for retirement, college, etc.


  • Allow yourself time to think carefully about your values and goals.
  • Be flexible. It is okay for values to change over time.

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Categories: Family Life | Philosophy