Families are very important to the growth and development of our children. Families are where most of us first learn the simple distinctions of life. Max DePree, a noted author writing on community and non-profit organizations, says that families are the first place most of us learn that we don’t always get our own way. There we learn the difference between right and wrong; that’s very important because if we don’t know that, then we can’t learn what forgiveness is all about.
Educators wholeheartedly would agree, that the family is the primary unit where learning occurs. Max lists the following important functions of families. They are certainly worth recognising as important for the growth and welfare of our children.
1. Families must provide unconditional love. Families love us because of who we are, not because of what we do or don’t do.
2. Families must teach and demonstrate a clear, concrete set of values. Families need to be clear about what they believe, and they need to act out those beliefs - in our families we learn a way of looking at life and relationships - relationships to other people and to the community. How we speak about others in front of our children sends a powerful message to them.
3. Families teach us what work means. From parents’ children see first-hand the importance of work. We teach our children about how things are to be done. We see or don’t see competence being demonstrated and learn about the importance of finishing tasks.
4. In families we are taught appropriate social and functional skills. These are life skills spanning such things as learning how to pay the rent, buy a car, how to save money and such things as manners, respect for ourselves and for others.
5. Families teach us how to manage our resources. Parents’ guide children in the way they use time and the tools and equipment in the home.
6. Families teach us that learning is an important part of life and must be valued.
7. Families explore the future together and teach us how to plan. We explore options together and experiment with choices.
8. Families celebrate together, and they nurture us. Celebrations become milestones marking performance, maturity and achievement. Celebrations can be said to have real substance in our lives!
Max talks about values and standards of the family, but I believe his list can be improved by adding:
9. Families teach us who God is and the meaning he has for us in our lives. As parents we exemplify that for our children. Children have much growing and learning to do. What a wonderful joy and privilege God gives all parents, but also what an awesome responsibility. May God bless all parents in the role of serving and teaching their children and may our schools support you well through the teaching and learning opportunities provided in them.
Reference: Max De Pree, Leading Without Power - Finding hope is serving community, Jossey-Bass, California, 1997
Neil P. Schiller