Adopting a Significant Family Purpose

Build a strong family by creating a family purpose. Everyone from the smallest to your teens will feel the unity.

In the movie, Unsung Hero, the family is in a new country, broke, and out of work. Without hesitation the children all volunteer to go to work. From the youngest to the oldest, everyone pitches in and contributes to the family’s household needs. They had a unique family purpose.

You might be thinking, that’s the parents’ job. Yes. It is. However, it’s important for children feel the family unity by helping where they can. Believe it or not, it’s good for them and the family.

On the other hand, if members of the family do not consciously think about the family as a social unit, each person will focus only on his or her individual purposes. When these usually hidden agendas clash, conflict results. The family does not know how to handle it, since the family is not fully functioning as a family without a purpose to which all members are committed.

On the other hand, when a family is led as a family, as the Smallbone family did, and careful time is taken to help the family adopt a purpose that is critically important to the family members.

We did this in my family when my oldest child was 4 years-old, couching our purpose in 4-year-old language. As the kids got older, we went over our family purpose at higher and higher levels of understanding.

While our family wasn’t in crisis mode, our family’s purpose was to “become as a family and as people all that God wants us to be.”

Note that a properly stated purpose is a result, not an activity.

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Therefore, having fun as a family is not a recommended purpose, while being together “to make certain that every member of the family enjoys life” is an adequate purpose. It is measurable.

The Smallbones’ immediate purpose was to never let the glass jar of money go empty, yours should be unique to your family. What’s important is to have a family purpose even when everything is going well.

Without such a purpose to guide behavior, a family can become dysfunctional. Teenagers will often drop out of such a family since they don’t feel like they were never card-carrying, contributing members of a group with an important purpose.

If you want your family to be a close-knit group of highly functional people, adopting a family purpose is critical. In the process of working toward a significant purpose with all its important goals, individuals (both children and parents) stretch themselves and become more capable.

Most likely you will want to propose to your family some purpose that specifically states or strongly implies an intention of helping one another be all that each can be. Two powerful possibilities emerge from such a purpose.

First, from that general purpose, you can help your family create goals for the family as a whole. For example, to develop into a helpful family, the family might decide to work toward the goal of being able to handle conflict calmly. The family could also set related goals for each member of the family.

Second, a family purpose can be used to measure what behavior is appropriate and inappropriate, right or wrong. For example, if one child takes something (steals) from another, it is not dealt with simply as an individual wrong, but also as something that negatively affects the family’s purpose.

Likewise, when people do not do their chores, they can be confronted with the family purpose and shown how such irresponsibility affects others. The family purpose should make disciplining kids more understandable and loving.

Do Not Do Anything the Family or Its Members Can Do

When you continually do things for people that they can do for themselves, you cripple them. Likewise, when you do things for the family that the family can do, you cripple the family. Doing way too much for the family and its members subtly communicates that the family and its members are not able to do things. (It is no wonder so many people in families do so little.) It also robs individuals and the family of a chance to achieve greater and greater maturity.

Giving the family a problem is critical to the development of the family and its members in many ways. Most important is the fact that the family can do many jobs a thousand times better than one or two parents. The family as a whole has more resources, more talent, more synergy, more time, more energy.

The successful parent is constantly vigilant to assure that he or she does not hold the family and its members back by doing things that the kids or the family as a whole can do. Instead of talking, directing, empathizing, and a host of other things that the family and its members can do better, the wise parent is constantly thinking about what the family needs to do to be a more dynamic family.

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