Building Strong Families with Commitment

by Jonathan D. Sherman, LMFT

This column is the third in a series that covers the six most common traits of strong families. Remember the acronym ACCCTS (A-Triple C-T-S)? The first C stands for Commitment. Commitment is a powerful trait that provides security to all family members as well as the foundation for problems solving.

Guiding Principle: Family Mission Statement

Strong families are committed to each other and tend to have some sort of mission statement that guides their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Several years ago, Stephen Covey made popular the notion of a Family Mission Statement. While this is usually an unwritten statement it is one that is clearly understood by everyone in the family. A mission statement answers the question of “What does it mean to be a member of our family?” For example, "Shermans make time for each other" or "McFaddens know how to have fun and look out for each other." Strong family identification lends to strong individual identity.

Remember the 70s hit single "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge? This song just happens to be a great example of a Family Mission Statement. With the declaration “We are family!” they define who they are, what keeps them together, how they interact and what makes them tick. They sang, “We are family! I got all my sisters with me…. All of the people around us they say, ‘Can they be that close?’ Just let me state for the record, We're giving love in a family dose.” And further, “Living life is fun and we've just begun, To get our share of the world's delights. High hopes we have for the future, And our goal's in sight. 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. We are family!” Profound or cheesy? It doesn’t matter. What matters is the message we convey to our family members that we are there for each other as a team.

Author and speaker Charles Beckert shares in Strategies for Successful Families (1988) his family’s “Family Pledge of Allegiance” which states, “I pledge allegiance to my name and to the family to which I belong. I promise to strengthen and support all family members that each may feel loved, competent, and worthwhile. I will do my best to help each member reach his or her potential. I will strive to bring honor to our family name in all I say or do and to enjoy the successes of other family members. I pledge to view each member of the family as an individual and to respect personal rights, privileges, and properties. May we live together in love.”

Practical Technique: Develop a Family Mission Statement

Gather together as a family and ask each other “What does it mean to be a member of our family?" List everyone’s responses on a piece of paper and discuss. Some families like to print and frame their family’s mission statement.

Guiding Principle: Support One Another

Strong families are also supportive of each other. If possible the whole family shows up to games, recitals, performances, etc. When a family member can't be at an activity to support another they live it vicariously later: they ask, "How was it? Really? Cool! I wish I could've been there. I bet you were great!" Strong families make their relationships a priority in both word and deed. Family activities are planned and held sacred just as work-related appointments are.

Guiding Principle: Tenacity

Strong families show their commitment by hanging in there with one another. The country singer Clint Black and his wife sang, “When I said, ‘I do’ I meant that ‘I will.’” Strong families know that feelings come and go so they build accordingly: they build their relationships upon the foundation of decisions and behaviors, not on transitory feelings. Predictability and consistency are the breeding ground for optimism and hope. Parents and children should never give up on each other. Children feel secure when they know that even when times are tough their parents and family are committed to working it out. It’s good for adults to know that, too.

Practical Technique: Decide to Mean What You Say

Commitment is simply a decision. Decide that you will consistently and predictably act in ways that demonstrate your commitment and support for your family members. Read Horton the Elephant, by Dr. Seuss with your family. Discuss the struggles and benefits of his trademark statement, "I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant's faithful one-hundred percent!" Then discuss what it would mean to have your family’s name inserted where the word “elephant” is.

Watch for the next column where we will look at creative coping and problem solving as a strategy for creating greatness in your relationships.

Jonathan Sherman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Consultant specializing in creating "greatness in relationships." He is experienced in assisting people learn to improve their marriages, their parenting and themselves through skill development, life coaching, overcoming depression and anxiety, stress and anger management, and addiction recovery. He teaches extensively throughout Utah County on a wide range of relationship topics. He is the founder of Bardos Relationship Consulting located in the Prairie Gate Professional Building in the Ranches, Suite 200. You may reach him at 801.787.8014, jonathan@bardos.net or at www.bardos.net.

Commitment
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How have you and your family shown your commitment to one another? Send your ideas to ideas@barodos.net and I'll post them here.


This article provided courtesy of Bardos Relationship Consulting• 801.787.8014 • bardos.net