Parents are worrywarts. We worry incessantly about our children. Especially when it comes to their future. We worry about how they will handle school, friends, education and a career.
We wonder how we can prevent them from making the wrong decisions when they are under pressure and have no one around to guide them. Will they do drugs? Will they choose the wrong life partner? Will they give up a meaningful job offer for a lucrative one? Will they care about their health once they live on their own?
We end up relying on the hope that somehow we have raised them well enough to make the right decisions. With a son on the threshold of his teenage years, my worries too, nudge me now and then. As a working mother, I cannot spend a limitless amount of time with my children or keep a hawk’s eye on them. So, do I wait for something to go wrong or is there something I can do before that?
Rather surprisingly, I got the answer, when I was a reading a book about managing companies! The book “How will you measure your life?” by Clayton Christensen, espouses lessons from some of the greatest businesses and applies them to life.
It describes a rather novel concept called “Family culture”.
The dictionary describes culture as “a way of life, especially the general customs or beliefs of a particular group of people at a particular time”. Mostly, we use the word ‘culture’ in different contexts. For example, if we follow certain religious rules and traditions, we are called cultured. If someone displays a high level of intellectual sophistication, he is called cultured.
But what if we create a person who is “family cultured”?
Think about it. In business, a company’s culture is a way of working together towards common goals that have been so frequently and so successfully used that people don’t even think about trying to do things the other way. Each company underlines its culture when starting off, so that the employees have no doubt about the higher goal they are working towards.For example, google promotes a culture of “working how you want”. Understanding that creative people cannot be restricted to a desk, it allows its employees to work from a beanbag or a tree house or a swing! As long as you deliver what is expected.
If we apply the same to families, and evolve a family culture – a set of general rules and goals for our families to abide by, the same becomes a part of life as we practice it endlessly.
Whether we want it or not, cultures are evolving within our homes. If we plonk ourselves in front of the television and binge watch on the pretext of being tired after work, unconsciously, we are sending signals to our children, that this is what we do in the family, when tired. If we speak to our house help disrespectfully, the same carries over.
So, whether we know it or not, we have already developed some cultures within our families! If you want to develop an alternative, robust and well defined one, the priorities for your family need to be clearly and proactively designed and spoken out for all to know.
This is easy to say, but difficult to put in action. Firstly, you and your spouse come from different families with different cultures (both conscious and unconscious). There will be a lot of things which the both of you cannot agree on. To this equation, we add kids who are born with their own personalities and attitudes!
It is therefore important that both the parents strategize and plan a culture for the family to follow, whatever the consequences. For example, if a family has decided on a culture of having dinner together, helping out in the house chores and being kind, then each member of the family needs to follow it.
At first, it feels like discipline, but over time, it becomes ingrained. It becomes an unconscious choice to get up from the couch and sit with every one for dinner, pick up a mop when there is a spill or help a friend in need!
As parents,being consistent with a culture is both trying and tiring at times, but well worth the trouble taken. For example, teaching your kids to resolve fights amicably may take a lot of time and energy at first, but that’s the behavior that the kids will will carry on, even when they are with their friends.
We like to believe that we make most of our life’s decisions by intent and consciously. But there is ample amount of research to show that this is not the case. There are many unconscious instincts at play during decision making. Like the time you sleep on a problem, and the answer appears almost miraculously the next morning. That is your unconscious at work. Scientists looked into what happened before the conscious mind made decisions. It was seen that the unconscious had made the same, seven seconds beforehand!
Hence, what better way to train the brain’s unconscious by putting in the right culture? So that, decision making comes by instinct and usually leads to the right choice?
Between busy schedules and too much homework, most parents let this chance of setting family cultures slip by them. Then we wonder, why our children made wrong choices as adults.
There is no time too late to start penning down your family’s culture. Grab your chance to make sure that your children grow up into genuinely good adults who set examples for others.