Family identity and cohesion is important. It provides an environment filled with support, a sense of belonging, and a deep understanding of who we are and what we value as a family. In healthy families individual differences are always respected and celebrated, but there is still a core family identity that binds everyone together.
As a mother, wife, and therapist I take this to heart and have worked hard to nurture it in my own family. One of the ways that we put this philosophy into practice is through our 3 core family rules.
Don’t be a jerk. – This is simple and all-encompassing. Not being a jerk means quite simply doing what is right. Follow the rules, and realize that you are no more or less important than anybody else. You are unique but not special. Understand that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Don’t be self-absorbed. Learn how to take criticism, be accountable, and keep a sense of humor. Be kind and respectful, and help people in need. Above all else do no harm. Appreciate that other people may not see the world the same way that you do, and that is perfectly okay.
As an adult pursue whatever career makes you happy as long as you can support yourself. – Your choice of occupation is entirely up to you. Follow your dream and go for it. But you have to be able to support yourself because that’s what adults are supposed to do. We will always give you advice and help you to problem-solve, but we won’t pay your bills and you won’t be allowed to live in our basement.
No excuses just solutions. – Life is filled with problems both big and small. Things don’t always work out. The world isn’t fair, people can work against us, and sometimes we just have bad luck. Other times we just make really awful decisions. We’re human and will make mistakes. Focusing on the excuse is only useful if it helps you to figure out what to do differently next time. Your energy needs to be invested in the solution. Always ask yourself, “How will I fix this problem?”
These rules provide basic expectations for us as a family. We talk about them often and use them to hold each other accountable. When the kids are asked to describe their family, they list our individual personality characteristics but then they talk about the rules. A great family activity is spending some time discussing what identity and values would describe your own family.