It’s easy to dream up big goals and create expectations for your family life at the beginning of a new year….and I love that!
But then usually kids start back to school, work starts back up again, and there’s quickly a whole lot to do that can get you off track.
Instead of focusing on your family’s to-do list this year, I want to encourage you to think about what it looks like to intentionally shape the CULTURE of your family in 2021.
Here’s the truth: Your family culture will play a bigger part in shaping your kids than any goal, habit, or routine that you set in place.
The beginning of the year is a great time to take inventory of the culture of your home and family and ask “How do we want to shape our family culture this year?”
Here are 7 simple ways to shape your family culture this year:
1. Invite God’s love & presence to mark your home.
This is honestly the biggest, most important, and most transformational thing you can do. And if you do nothing else on this list, do this one.
It sounds kind of funny to “invite God” into something, because He’s omnipresent… He’s everywhere, right?
But there’s a big difference between simply existing in a space and being an honored and celebrated guest. What would it look like to make God an honored guest in your home this year?
This is the foundation of the culture you want to create in your home and family. A place where God’s love and presence is not only welcome, but marks you.
One of our goals as a family is and has always been that our home would be marked with God’s love, presence and peace.
We have prayed that everyone who enters our home would feel peace and experience genuine acceptance. That their encounters with us would leave them feeling valued and loved….a true demonstration of God’s heart for them, whether or not they actually know God personally.
What do you want the culture of your home to feel like?
When you arrive home after a long day or even a trip to the grocery store, how do you want to feel when you enter through the front door?
When your kids are grown up and out of the house, what do you want to be the thing that draws them back to visit? How do you want them to feel when they walk through your door as an adult some day? Those are the things you want to start cultivating now.
The good news is that you don’t have to be perfect to do this. You just have to be willing. Making God an honored guest in your home isn’t about how long your quiet time is or how many times you did or didn’t yell at your kids.
It’s a position of your heart.
It’s a place of humility where you recognize that it’s not about you. That you are part of a bigger family….the family of God. And you choose to trade your worry, to check your pride at the door, to surrender your fears, and to trust God as a family.
A few simple ways we love to do this:
- Play worship music – It doesn’t have to be all day, but even for 5-10 minutes here and there. Whenever you feel tension running high or kids fighting or yourself losing it, just turn on some worship music and breathe in the peace of God. You can even say, “Okay kids, it feels like we need a reset. Let’s take a few minutes to be quiet and invite God to bring his peace.”
- Take communion as a family. We don’t do it every day, but at least once a week we will sit down and do this together. We order these little all-in-one communion packets from Amazon so they’re ready to go any time. It literally takes us 5 minutes or less, but it’s such a powerful act of coming together as a family and experiencing God’s presence together.
2. Focus on your personal culture.
One day, I noticed that our kids seemed really stressed out. They were antsy, they were emotional, they were getting frustrated and losing their temper easily….and I started to get really upset because it was driving me NUTS.
I finally thought to myself, “What the heck is going on here? Why are my kids losing it?” And then I had an epiphany….I was stressed out, irritable and losing it.
My kids were mirroring my culture and I didn’t even see it.
Your personal culture determines your family culture.
Let me say that again. Your personal culture determines your family culture.
You can plan activities and host family meetings all day long, but at the end of the day, if your own culture is marked with stress or anger, that’s going to be the atmosphere that’s cultivated.
I don’t say that to make you feel guilty, because the truth is we ALL struggle with these types of things.
What’s important to note is whenever the culture of your home is feeling off–when your kids are acting out or your home feels tense or whatever may be going on–the first question to ask yourself is this: “What is my personal culture like today?”
Chances are, there’s something happening in you or in your spouse or even in your marriage that could be setting the tone for your home.
Instead of directing your frustration at your family, go back to step one and invite God’s peace into your own life in that moment. See what you can do to get your personal culture back on track.
Then, you can address what’s happening with the rest of your family from a place of peace instead of joining the chaos.
3. Invest in your marriage.
When you have kids, it can be so easy to shift your focus to them and to let your marriage sit on the back burner. Michael and I have totally done this, especially when our first baby was born. I get it.
But the funny thing is that we tell ourselves that this “sacrifice” is actually for the good of our kids, when nothing could be farther from the truth.
Did you know that one of the best gifts you can ever give to your children is to have a healthy marriage?
Kids learn from what we DO way more than from what we SAY. And the most prominent adult relationship in their life…if you’re married…is the one between you and your spouse. Which means that kids are learning from your marriage what healthy adult relationships are supposed to look like.
That doesn’t mean you can never fight or get hurt feelings. It just means that when you DO, it’s important for your kids to see you work them out together.
Kids find security in knowing their parents love each other. That’s what makes it one of the best gifts you can give them! Investing in your marriage has a powerful effect on the culture of your home and family.
In fact, when you and your spouse are working to love each other well, your kids will find peace and THEY will feel loved in return.
I know it can feel difficult to find time to invest in your marriage, especially when your kids are little!
If your marriage needs a little reset, I have a free 5-Day marriage challenge that will give you an awesome jumpstart.
The culture of your marriage will help set the tone for your family culture. So make it a point to invest in your marriage this year, even just in small ways. Check out this post for 5 Ways to Connect With Your Spouse in 5 Minutes or Less.
4. Establish your family values.
Every culture, every society, and every family has a set of values (whether they know it or not). Values are the principles, ideals, and customs that are generally accepted and lived out by a group of people.
So how are values laid out or decided on? Not all families sit down and intentionally determine their family values. In fact, most probably don’t.
Yet, every family reflects certain beliefs and habits. Sometimes they may be communicated verbally, but lots of times they are communicated more through non-verbals, like the behaviors modeled by the parents.
Why lay out your values?
If you don’t take the time to intentionally set your family values, they will be determined for you by your daily life and how you respond (or react) to things as they arise.
Why not be intentional to choose the values you want your children to embrace and live by?
The beginning of the year is the perfect time to sit down as a family and establish the core values you want to live by.
The good news is you can continue to shape them and hone them over the years. So you don’t have to feel pressure to “get it right” your first time.
It’s as simple as hosting a family meeting! You can make it special by having a fun snack to keep everyone engaged. Be sure to pick a time where most family members are well-rested (is that even possible?)
Get a big piece of paper or a white board and ask some questions like:
1. What things are most important to our family?
2. What things do we spend most of our time doing?
3. If other people described us, what words would they use?
4. When do we have the most fun together?
5. When do we feel the most connected as a family?
6. What types of things do we feel most proud of?
Write down everyone’s input, no matter how silly it seems. If your 2-year-old says “cheese,” put it on the list. Heck, cheese is important to me at least. As you go through that process, you’ll start to see themes that you can group together to choose your top 5 or 7 core values as a family.
This will not only help you to get on the same page and be INTENTIONAL as a family this year, but it will help you begin to shape the language of your home to reflect those values.
That language is what’s going to stick with your kids (and you) for years to come.
I have a free guide to Shape Your Family’s Values that walks you through how to have this family meeting, what questions to ask, and also has a printable template where you can write out the values you choose and hang it up in your home. Grab it below!
5. Prioritize Connection.
Parenting can feel really complicated sometimes. (Okay, maybe a lot of times.) There’s always another book to read, another philosophy to consider, another person with some idea of how you SHOULD be doing it.
And yet, when you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, everything you KNOW you should be doing flies out the window and it feels like survival of the fittest.
My encouragement to you is not to get caught up in the complexity of parenting dilemmas, but to simply Focus. On. Connection.
Cultivating a meaningful relationship with your child will outlast any disciplinary issue that comes up.
So lean into that. Lean into connection. Choose the relationship over the details.
When your child’s behavior doesn’t make sense and you don’t have a tool or a worksheet, ask yourself… “How can I connect with my child right now? How can I help them know that I love them?”
More often than not, that connection will overcome whatever temporary situation that’s happening.
Lean into connection.
6. Shape the language of your home.
This goes hand in hand with setting your values, because your values help to shape the language of your home!
Language is a powerful shaper of culture. How many commercial jingles can you recite? McDonald’s – I’m loving it. State Farm – Like a Good Neighbor. Lucky Charms – They’re Magically Delicious.
As humans, we naturally grab on to these little phrases or slogans and they stick with us….coming up in our subconscious for years to come (whether we like it or not).
It’s the same thing with the “language” of your home. What do you want that language to be? You get to choose!
One of the best ways to intentionally shape your family culture in 2021 is to choose a few catch phrases that you want to represent or empower your family.
For my family, one of ours is “Same Team.”
It started with Michael and me as a way of connecting in our marriage and managing conflict. When it felt like we were at odds, we’d remind each other that we are on the same team and it helped us reconnect. Now, as we’ve had kids, we’ve incorporated it into our language with them as well.
When it’s time to clean up and nobody feels like doing it, we’ll say “We’re all on the same team.” And we will work together to clean up.
Or when I catch my kids fighting, instead of pointing fingers at who did what, I’ll remind them, “You two are on the same team. What would it look like for you to work through this together?”
Even if you just choose one or two things, be intentional to start shaping the language of your home.
Ask yourself, “Years down the road, when my kids face a problem, what do I want to be the words that come back to them? What do I want the thoughts to be that pop into their head?”
The answer to those questions will help you shape that language now.
7. Choose grace.
One of the most impactful books I’ve read in the last few years is called Mindset by Carol Dweck.
It’s based on the idea that people tend to have one of two perspectives in life: They either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset tells you that you either have it or you don’t. Either you’re talented or you’re not. You’re smart or you aren’t. You’re beautiful or you’re not. And nothing you say, think, or do can change what is.
But a GROWTH mindset tells you that you have the ability to grow and change and become. What’s amazing is that this is supported by scientific research!
Despite what people thought for YEARS, newer research suggests that our brains can actually change. Our personality is not always fixed. Our abilities are not fixed.
We have the capacity to form new neural pathways and….even in our old age…..to learn new things and gain new skills and get better at things.
This, to me, is such an incredible picture of God’s grace.
How many times in our lives do we mess up, make mistakes, and we are quick to label ourselves as a failure?
We tell ourselves things like, “I’m not good enough. I’ll never be good enough. I’m not smart. I’m not good at math. I can’t sing. I’m not a good mom. I’m a terrible spouse.”
And on and on. This is a fixed mindset.
But God’s grace makes everything new.
It opens doors for you that you never thought could open. It allows us to literally renew our minds and be transformed.
According to Lamentations 3:22, his mercies are new every morning.
What if you led your family this year with that mindset?
What if you approached 2021 not with fear or anxiety, but with the belief that you not only have the ability to grow, change, adapt, and handle anything that comes… but that God’s grace is going before you and making a way where there is no way?
One of the best ways to shape your family culture in 2021 is to choose grace. Choose a growth mindset.
As your kids and your spouse see you extending grace to yourself, picking yourself up when you make a mistake and asking “what did I learn from that?”, they will start to do the same.
And no matter what this year holds, you can walk in peace and joy.