There is no shortage of words printed on pages devoted to family values, what they are, how to create them, what yours should be, how to instill them in your children, or what to do when the children violate them. Family values are good, and I’m all for them. We even have a few in our tiny Scott circus, though I can’t recall a time when we ever intentionally spelled them all out for our offspring. I guess my husband and I kind of expected that as they got praised for certain things and disciplined for others, they’d pick up the general ideas.
Lying is punished, truth-telling is praised. Boom! Family value.
You get the jist.
I remember hearing a man teach about instilling their family values in such a way that I imagined him doing a Reverse Mr. Rogers-- going home from work, changing out of his khakis and polo, and putting on his more comfortable three-piece suit to be Dad. I didn’t think it was possible, but he acted like parenting was a formal business transaction between a fully-formed adult and an unreasonable preschooler whose idea of rational is committing to the role of “puppy” for an entire week, crawling everywhere, scratching behind her ears with her foot and asking for her meals to be placed in a bowl on the floor. I guess his way is one way to parent. Without being hyperbolic, though, I have an allergy to that kind of rigidity and structure. All you other ENTPs out there get what I'm saying. I appreciate the intentionality of the man, but I know my husband and myself well enough to know that we will never sit down and outline exactly what our family values are and how we are going to achieve imparting them to the children. In fact, I don’t know most of you, but I’d be willing to bet that aside from that sign you ordered on Etsy, you aren’t so formal or prepared for parenting as to have codified your family values. You know the sign I'm talking about. It reads, “In this family we...” fill in the blank with all the idyllic family-ish things. It's written in cursive so your first grader can't read it, and maybe your junior higher can't either (because do they even teach cursive in school anymore?), but when guests see it, they are sure to think twice before they judge your parenting skills and maybe even give you the benefit of the doubt. But, hey, there's nothing wrong with not having your family's values taped to the fridge like a catechism.
And yet, like all of you, I want my children to grow up and value the things I think are valuable. For example, above all things, I want them to love Jesus and be obedient to Him. I want them to be truthful, hospitable, kind, grateful, empathetic, compassionate, forgiving and generous. I want them to include rather than exclude. I want them to create rather than destroy. I want them to read rather than watch tv. I want them to sip coffee and, when it’s age-appropriate and legal, wine with me. I want them to work to lift others up. I want them to be self-motivated and to always be learning something new. I want them to appreciate whatever food is provided to them wherever they are.
There’s nothing unusual here. There’s not anything on this list that is unique to our family. Many of these are values are universal, and as we praise our children for the right things and discipline for the wrong, we also hope we are personally modeling them in such a way as to be contagious.
I’d be loath to make premature judgments on how this is turning out in our children, but in general, I’d say it’s going pretty well (except for maybe the reading/tv part). It seems like they are catching on, so, I don’t sense the need to formally outline and specifically instruct our children on our family values.
Except for one. Because this one doesn't always go without saying.
Scott kids, I expect you to be funny.
I'm being serious.
I want you to value humor. Not potty humor, foul humor, or inane humor, but smart, witty, lighthearted and sometimes self-deprecating humor. I don't mean the kind of humor that's at the expense of others, but the kind that, when injected in the right dose at the right time, heals wounds, makes a heavy heart smile, and uncovers the absurd in nonthreatening ways.
Wit is a sign of intelligence, and humor is an invitation into friendship.
Funny is a gift you give others. It's a key that opens many locked doors and is a bridge over wide chasms. When used as a tool and not as personal defense, it tears down walls of division and purchases opportunities to engage others in ways that serious can't afford. Unlike some other virtues, humor isn’t something society necessarily values, encourages, or teaches. You have to learn this one for yourself. It requires you to study your world, to listen to others, to develop timing and a sense of when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. It's risky to be funny. You might have to look like a fool a few times and pull your foot out of your mouth more times than you imagined possible until you figure it out. Funny is a craft, and it isn’t easy, but it’s something the world desperately needs now more than ever.
That's why it's one of our highest family values.
So, go be funny, Scottlets. It’s what your dad and I expect.