Your Family Jewel

Cause here’s what we call our golden rule

Have faith in you and the things you do

You won’t go wrong

This is our family jewel

    – Sister Sledge


So sitting down to write your Family Manifesto may take more time that you’ve got right now. Fair game. In this post, you’ll get the short cut, speed-date version in just four steps.

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1. Hit the pause button.  Carve out just 10 or 15 minutes to think of what you want for your family and your kids.  Need a list of virtues or ideas to spark your thinking? Click here.

1-2-32. Start Small.  Make a 1-2-3 list each day that foster these virtues or traits. Do it every day for a week and keep it simple and attainable. There are a dozens of things you must do for your family today.  But what is ONE thing you can do to support one fo those virtues and traits you identified?  Keep this list laser-focuses on those traits.  It might mean modeling kindness and then explicitly saying, “it was important to me to be kind to that woman who was having trouble carrying her groceries.  Did you see her smile when I offered?”   Or it might mean reading a picture book after school that talks about playing fair or showing perseverance.  Or it maybe asking your kids during dinner, what they enjoy doing most as a family.  Your 1-2-3 list covers the one must-do, two things you’d like to do and finally, three things that would be nice.  Disclaimer: while I am a voracious and obsessive list maker, this comes from last week’s Lifestyle Challenge on the Whole Life Challenge .

affirm reinforce3. Affirm and Reinforce.  We all do better and feel better when we start with the positive, rather than feeling broken or that there is a deficit.  Affirm to yourself and others what is doing well, what you love, what works for your family.  Use your language – verbal and nonverbal – to reinforce those behaviors and attitudes.  When you see your child struggle with homework, rather than swooping in to “help” or fix or email the teacher about what a crazy assignment it was, ask your child what would assist them in or if they need to take a break and walk away. Notice their effort and tell them that (“you sat there reading for 15 minutes, I know that it hard for you, but you did it!).  Be specific. Be genuine. Support, reinforce and coach.

family jewel


4. Have, faith in what you do.  Know that you are doing the best you can do each day.  Sure, we can all be better parents, co-workers, partners, but most of us simply cannot give 100% every day in every arena. Have faith in your abilities and efforts. When you show up with honesty and a willingness to try, you’re modeling some pretty amazing virtues for your kids. And that, my parenting-friend, is your family jewel.

There you have it – the shortcut version to writing your family manifesto.  If it sparks your interest in working through this process – as I hope it does – simply subscribe to the newsletter (just to get updates on the blog posts and stay in the loop with future special offerings).  Once you’re subscribed, I’ll send you a free PDF template to help you write your family manifesto.

Take care,



Family Manifesto


The word manifesto comes from Latin, and it connotes something that is very clear and conspicuous. Merriam-Webster defines it as a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about defining family in Ways We Want Our Family to Be, asked Who Will Your Family Be? and defined the 8 Traits the Wonder of Children blog focuses on.  Now it’s your turn.

Coming off the holiday of love, why not channel that love for your family by taking some time to put it into words, define your priorities and top traits, and outlining how you want your family to be?

I’ll make it easy.  I’ll go first in just a bit. I’ll also give you DIY Guide. It’s a cheat sheet with three easy steps and five thought-provoking questions to get you moving ahead.


All I ask in return is that you subscribe to the newsletter, and consider sharing on your social media networks or with like-minded friends.  I won’t share your info (of course!) but I will send you the DIY Family Manifesto Guide.
Now I’ll go first.

In our family, what we do, how we treat others and how we view the world matters.  We are each unique and gifted. It’s our challenge to share our gifts with the world and to accept the gifts of others. We need the time and space to know ourselves and the courage to share what we know, to learn from others and to offer the world what we can. Our job is to find what and whom we love, and to work diligently to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. We need to see the joy in this work and our relationships and to remain positive even during those times when we cannot always do what we love.


Everyone brings different experiences and struggles to the world and into our lives.  We can never walk in anyone else’s shoes, so it’s important we try to be free of judgment and be willing to accept the perspective, needs or gifts of others. We must stay true to our values and ourselves. This may mean speaking up again intolerance, unfairness or bad choices, and again, being honest.  This includes respect and openness to the views and needs of others or taking action when needed. We willing to help solve problems, rather than to blame or wrestle with anger over inaction.


We must recognize the good in our lives and the grace whatever higher being you believe in has bestowed upon your life.  There will be many in our lives who need our help, from a warm smile to our time to help them to our efforts to make them breakfast or donate something material.  Life is challenging and requires us to work hard. Sometimes we can give 85%, but often we must give at least 100%.  Conserve energy and put it towards what is most important but do those things required of you (such as taking out the trash) with the same sense of dignity and care.


We can’t always be together; it’s natural to spend and time apart. Stay connected. Check in to say hello and mean it when you ask, “How are you?” Be present or be absent, but not both at the same time.  Know what each person enjoys and do your best to enjoy these together. Sometimes being together is more important than what you do together. Be willing to listen, say, “I’m sorry,” or otherwise make reparations when you mess up or are wrong. It will happen to each of us. We all have bad days. We support each other through those and it may mean putting someone else’s needs or desires before your own. That is called being gracious.


We take care of the spaces we share so we can be together. Wake each day grateful that we are privileged inhabit this earth together and be happy or thankful for the same as each day draws to a close. Our time together may be long or short, so our daily interactions must be rooted in love. Say, “I love you” and remember that love is a verb.


So there it is. Do we live this every day?  Heck no!  We’re flawed humans, but we get up each day willing to try and try again.

Over the years, this has evolved as we have grown. Start simple. Get input from others. Post it where you can see it. Read it. Discuss it. Be it as best you can.

Now it’s your turn. Subscribe to the newsletter and I’ll send the DIY Family Manifesto your way. Share your love with your family. Share this post with your friends, won’t you please?
Take care,






8 Traits

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The past few posts have focused on defining family but in a broader sense, this blog is about what we model and instill with the children in our lives and the lessons we learn from each other. A huge part of raising and working with kids is keeping in mind the end game.  That doesn’t mean being wedded to a certain outcome (soccer star, valedictorian, Ivy-League college) but more a general sense of the values you want to instill and the kind of person you hope this little person is and becomes.  While much of development is dependent on temperament, health, experiences outside the home, parents and caregivers are the first teachers and often, the most significant role models.  


It’s important to spend time thinking about what you want to model and instill, and to know that this may change over time.Each family will grow to have it’s own unique blend of values and priorities. This may include a range of other big and small ideas, such as:






The foundation for building a connected family and children who learn to navigate their world with confidence, empathy and a willingness to accept challenges are based on eight traits explored on the blog.  They are:




Love of literature/communication



Problem solving

Resilience & resourcefulness


These are eight traits, among many, that are the foundation upon which strong families are based.  It also shares stories of a wide range of children in the classroom where these traits are nurtured and contribute to both the child’s development and the school community.  Each of these traits helps give rise to confident, caring and engaged children who learn to advocate for themselves and people and issues important to them, as they learn to be self-reliant and motivated thinkers and do-ers in an increasingly complex world.

With two emerging adults – kids that are late teens and early twenties but not yet fully adults – it’s easier now to look back on how we raised them.  There were definitely periods we were far too bleary-eyed or stressed to consider the big picture! Over the past twenty years, our ideals and values have shifted as circumstances and needs changed.  We faced challenges and many joys, but throughout these halos and hiccups, there are many values and traits that we clung to and strived to model and instill.


Over these same years, as I worked with children from ages three through thirteen, I was fortunate enough to work alongside dedicated colleagues who shared similar values and commitment to what we modeled and expected from our students. Beyond my own two offspring, I saw hundreds of kids from various backgrounds learn to navigate school and life with courage and integrity, learning from their mistakes and growing.  What’s most important to me as a person and my family can be summarized:


  • We must have the courage to be both creative and empathetic in our lives. We must listen to our hearts and the people around us. Everyone and every situation have something to teach us when we listen.  
  • Communicating with others orally, in writing, in our body language and our actions are essential in this world.
  • Literature has much to teach us, as well as an ability to help us escape from the world, explore new ideas, and connect with others.  
  • Life isn’t just about work; it’s about play and joy, too. Play is essential for big people, little people and all people, so we need time for authentic play that allows us to do something we love with no  purpose.  
  • Whether in play or work, we will need to problem solve, often. This requires looking carefully at the situation and trying new things. We will fail, and we will succeed, and we will learn.
  • To navigate our relationship and our world, we will be called upon, again to be brave, as we develop resilience and resourcefulness. Life will be complicated and messy and rewarding. We have to jump in the game and give it our all.  
  • As a family, we need to support each other as we take this journey, honoring each other, being open to the possibilities, holding each other accountable as we celebrate the failures and successes of our individual and collective growth and contributions to the world.

Our most important job as parents and caregivers is to raise children who learn to be self-sufficient, competent, caring and willing to contribute to the world – a world we cannot know right now, but can only give our very best effort to raising good kids who will go out and do good in their own ways.

What’s most important to your family or for you to model and instill in the children you work with?

Who Will Your Family Be?

The last post talked about how our family, as the result of circumstances beyond our control, had to re-define itself.  This post invites you to take a closer look at your family and to define what you hope it to be and how you can support each other.

Do you get what you want or what you need?
  Who Will Your Family Be?


Parenting will be messy, complicated, challenging, rapturous, rewarding, heart wrenching, and heart filling. You will be stymied, stumped, swamped, and sustained by the love and challenges you face. As you saunter, skip, or scramble down the path of raising children, it’s worth you time to pause and consider just who you want them to be? Themselves, of course.  But part of being “themselves” will include the values and traits you instill in them, as well as the values and traits you strive for as a family.

This is your family. This is your life. You cannot always control what happens nor the actions of those in and around your family. You can, however, set the tone, the tenor, the boundaries, and the expectations.  Be open to the beautiful changes and opportunities in life and the inherent joy children bring to our lives. Clinging to expectations – yours or those of others in your tribe – will create tension and suffering.  Have expectations, but be willing to hit the pause button to reflect honestly on the circumstances, needs, and priorities.

Modern life for parents and kids has its own challenges for resources, priorities, and success.  Every family needs to define its own set of values, priorities and goals, as well as the expectations and boundaries for individuals. Family, in its truest sense, provides a haven for all to be themselves, including the exploration of self and space and ability to test-drive ideas and experiences.   It’s a place to relax, process the world and one’s work, and to learn to get along with others.  It’s a place where dignity and respect are to be modeled, practiced and where we learn to be accountable for our actions.  When we fail, and we WILL, it’s a place we learn to apologize, make reparations and move on knowing the next time it will be different.

If you’re a family caregiver, it’s worth your time to think about how you want your family to be.

If you’re a teacher or work with children, it’s helpful to understand the child in context of your students’ families, or better yet, to get to know the family and what’s most important to them.  This process of drafting a family manifesto or defining family priorities or Ways We Want to Be is akin to the process many teachers use at the beginning of the school year facilitate a class’ articulation of their own rules or guidelines.   While often called class rules or class covenants, they are much like a manifesto as they state the ideals in the most positive form.  These are written and practiced in ways that allow for exceptions or missteps, and in turn, these allow for reflection and growth. These become part of our thought process and guide our behavior.  Whether it’s a class rule that we take care of our materials and we forget to put library books away or an instance where our family manifesto says we use kind and respectful words, and we lose our tempers and yell, both examples provide ways for families and classes to talk honestly about what happened, what the underlying needs and feelings might be and how to repair any damages to property or feelings so that folks can do better – or do differently – the next time.

This process reminds me a familiar quote:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

Mahatma Gandhi


So it’s worth considering your beliefs about family and life.  Those beliefs become thoughts and then words, ideally shared with yoru family.  In turn, these become your actions and habits before finally, your destiny and legacy.

Show our kids the value of thoughtful reflection and collaboration, setting goals and learning from our mistakes are all value lessons. Maybe even some of the values and traits you might incorporate in your own family manifesto.

What do you believe is most important for your family? Post your short answer in comments. I’d love to hear what’s most important to you.


Ways We Want Our Family To Be

281167694_7cba89cabd_oIn the last post, I shared a glimpse of how my family  hit the reset button after a very stressful period. Even some of our friends who helped us through that phase were surprised by some of the details.  Indeed, when you are slogging through the mud, it’s hard to examine or talk about that trek.  A decade later, that murky path and the route we took out of that mayhem is transparent.  What we learned, and what many families learn as circumstances slowly or rapidly provide a reality check, is how we define ourselves.   


 We were never one of those couples who had a 6 month, 1 year, 5-year,  or 10-year plan. Maybe we had a 6-month plan and even a fuzzy idea of the long-range plan. But really, how many couples put family and work obligations on hold long enough to really engage in the kind reflection and  long-range planning?  (If that’s you, then big cheers to you!) We thought it was a good idea, but never had our act together long enough to take action. We were pretty much about getting through the day, the night and perhaps, the week ahead. Continue reading “Ways We Want Our Family To Be”