Two tips to increase the influence of your family’s “brand” on their personal “brand”
When I was a kid, I heard from my friends who lived in town how their parents insisted they make their beds or do the dishes. I didn’t have to make my bed, but I did have to feed the calves. My identity was shaped by my family’s business. We were cattle ranchers. Every year a certain number of orphaned calves became my responsibility to raise, and I would have much preferred the simplicity of making my bed to mixing formula and holding the bottle in the frigid morning while a hungry calf slobbered all over me. But I understood my role and our unspoken family motto: Take care of the cattle, and they will take care of us.
Kids coming of age in the 21st century are encouraged to use social media to present their personal “brand” to the world. As parents, we hope their virtual and actual identities are congruent, and reflect positive values. Ask yourself if you’re confident about the following:
- Before crafting a personal “brand,” has your child grappled with fundamental questions, such as: “What do I stand for?” or “What do I value most?”
- Is your child's personal “brand” consistent with your family “brand”?
- Does your child understand your family “brand”? Could he or she articulate a family “mission statement”? For that matter, could you?
Parents who think carefully about what it means to be “a member of this family” not only increase family harmony, but support moral growth.
My nuclear family valued cattle – the source of our livelihood – and I knew that being a member of our family meant pitching in wherever necessary. Of course different families have different priorities, based on culture, tradition, beliefs about what gives life meaning, and economic realities. But most parents, regardless of these differences, also want their kids to be kind, compassionate people, capable of acting ethically when confronted with challenging decisions.
Parents can help by formulating a family mission statement, reflecting on what it means to be part of the original family circle.
Such an exercise helps all family members better understand and act in accordance with mutually endorsed family values. Having a clear understanding of this aspect of family identity will inform a young person’s choices about other groups to join, other relationships to pursue, and what kind of connections they treasure most. While at first the process of developing a family mission statement may seem artificial, it pays off.
Parents first should consider what kind of family they aspire to have, asking themselves the following questions:
- How do you define success?
- What do you hold most sacred?
- What are families for?
- What activities bring you the most joy?
- What sayings inspire and define you?
Parents might generate a list of qualities, habits, and traits they associate with positive outcomes. Parents then share this process with their kids, encouraging them to add to and refine the list. Highlight strengths rather than focusing on what goes wrong in day-to-day family life…no group of human beings is perfect!
After family members have reached agreement on a short list of statements embodying the values that all members embrace, consider:
- How are these values practiced by different family members in daily life?
- How would family life change if each member consciously worked to align his/her behavior with these values?
- How would the community (or even the world) change if everyone practiced these values?
Best of all, kids who have helped articulate a family mission statement are more motivated to live up to a standard they helped develop. And they are apt to internalize what the family mission statement suggests about being true to their “best self,” and to judge their behavior against this model even before a parent intervenes.
For more information on developing a family mission statement, please see previously published PMG articles “Crafting a Family Mission" and “Bruce Feiler and The Secrets of Happy Families.” The ideas of both Marie Sherlock and Bruce Feiler (contributors to the previous articles) inform the above section regarding family mission statements.