Saturday, March 25, 2017

Reinforcing Family Culture

Marcos and I were born into very different families of origin, with very different communication styles.  We have spent the past 10 years trying to distill the best aspects of each of our families, and create new patterns of communication that will serve this little family that we are raising.

Probably the best place for our family communication is at the dinner table.  We have chosen not to own a TV, and by design, our phones stay as far from the table as possible.  After some chit chat and catching up on our day, we have a family tradition of sharing Highlights. It's a time that we all look forward to, when we can share something that made our day really special.

Around the beginning of the year I was looking for something with which to supplement our dinner conversations, and I came across a document on the internet with questions written out in strips.  The purpose was to print out the questions, cut them apart, and fold them up in a jar on the dinner table, so that families could choose a question each evening and get to know each other better.  The questions were entertaining in the beginning, but ultimately we felt like we were wasting our time answering questions about things that were not personal, and didn't really matter.  I can't say who thought of it first, but both Marcos and I came to the realization that we could easily write questions ourselves, and by so doing, make sure that we were using that time to teach our children and reinforce the family culture that we are trying to create.  It took us a few evenings to work out the wording on all of the questions, because we had the engaging task of not only finding the questions and wording them just so, but the much bigger task of identifying the things that are important to our family culture in the first place.  You might be surprised at how difficult that can be!  If someone asks you, "What are you about?" would you have a good answer for them?  It definitely took us a few nights to flesh out the things most important to us as a family.

In the end, it has become a really meaningful way for us to talk about things that matter to our family.  After our round of Highlights at dinner each evening, we choose a question from the jar and allow the kids to answer.  We add to their comments, focusing on open, informal communication and trying to avoid lapsing into lectures.  It has been a great addition to our dinner conversations, and since we have already done the heavy lifting, I wanted to include these questions in a blog post in case any of you are interested.  These are questions tailored to the Prieto family: please alter to fit your needs!

Happy talking, happy teaching,


01)     What is our family motto? What does it mean to you? (“To Wonder at Beauty, Stand Guard Over Truth, Look Up to the Noble, Resolve on the Good”)
02)     What does it mean to “wonder at beauty”? What are some things that you find beautiful?
03)     What does it mean to “stand guard over truth”? Why do you think this is important for our family?
04)     What does it mean to “look up to the noble”? Who are some noble people? What are some noble actions?
05)     What does it mean to “resolve on the good”? What good deeds have you done recently?
06)     How is our family strong? How could our family be better?
07)     Prietos value diversity. What does that mean to you? What are ways that we can welcome diversity into our family?
08)     Prietos are good hosts. What are some good hosting practices? Who of our friends are also good hosts?  What do they do to make you feel welcomed?
09)     Prietos do hard things. Tell about a time that you did something even though it was hard. How did you feel about your accomplishment or your failure?
10)     Prietos believe in leaving a place cleaner than they found it. What is a place you could improve this week?
11)     Prietos are honest. What are different ways that we can be honest? Why is it sometimes hard to be honest?
12)     Prietos are helpful. Who in your life needs help and how can you help them?
13)     Prietos are loyal friends. How are you a loyal friend? Who do you consider to be a loyal friend?
14)     Prietos don’t do drugs. Why not?
15)     Addictions are powerful. What does it mean to be addicted? What kinds of things are addictive?
16)     All humans have a wide range of feelings. What are some feelings that you felt today? What can you do if you feel really sad? What can you do if you feel really angry?
17)     Life is not fair. What are some things other children might have that you do not have? What are some things YOU have that other children might not have?
18)     Your body is beautiful and powerful, and belongs only to you. How can we respect our bodies and other people’s bodies? 
19)     Prietos follow safety rules. What are some of the safety rules we follow?
20)     Prietos use their words. What are some powerful words that you use?
21)     Prietos are curious about the world. What is something that you want to learn more about?  What are different ways that you can learn more about this topic?
22)     Prietos have good sportsmanship. What does it mean to be a good sport?
23)     All human beings make mistakes. Why are mistakes important?
24)     Prietos are inclusive. What are some groups that are historically not included in mainstream society, and how can we reach out to include them?
25)     There are many religions in the world. What are some of the religions you have heard of? Why is religion important for some people?
26)     What is bullying? What can you do to prevent becoming a bully? What can you do if you are a bystander? What can you do if you are being bullied? 
27)     Prietos don’t give up. What is something that you were not good at in the beginning, but that you are getting better at because of practice. What does it mean to be consistent and diligent?
28)     Prietos are good at using money. What are good ways to spend money, and what are unwise ways to spend money? If you had $10, what would you do with it?
29)     One of our mottos is “many hands make light work”. What does this have to do with chores around the house? What is the value of having a clean house? 
30)     What are some of the happiest memories you have with your siblings? What are the challenges of having siblings? When you are all adults, what do you look forward to doing together?

31)     What are some Prieto Family house rules? Are there any new rules we should consider? Who benefits from having rules?


kate said...

These are awesome, Metta! I love how they are questions but also reinforce your family values.

Rebecca said...

I absolutely LOVE these ... and you. Thanks for sharing - I definitely want to use these are a starting point for our own set up questions!

Unknown said...

This is beautiful, Metta! I may try a few of these tonight...