Fathering With Intentionality: The Importance of Creating a Family Culture

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 22, 2013 · 71 comments

in Fatherhood, Relationships & Family

familyculture

Have you ever met one of those families that just seem to have it all together? Maybe you knew such a family growing up and loved hanging out over at their house – there was such a great atmosphere there that you kind of felt like you were coming home whenever you stopped over. The parents were happy. The kids were all well-adjusted and generally did the right thing. Everyone in the family seemed to genuinely love, respect, and care about each other. They all truly enjoyed each other’s company and had a blast doing things together. Sure, they had problems and struggles like any other family, but they supported each other and rallied together to take care of whatever they were going through. Maybe you joked about them being so good it was creepy – perhaps they were perfect aliens from another planet — but you envied them nonetheless.

These days you’re the dad, and you’re heading a household of your own. Things in your home might be a bit chaotic. Perhaps your kids don’t get along, maybe there’s tension in your marriage, or maybe you just feel like your home life isn’t quite in the shape you want it to be. You think of that fun, warm family of your youth and want what they had, but you don’t know how to go about it. In twenty-two years of school, no one ever offered you a single course in parenting. Maybe you hope it will just happen as the years go by.

As a young dad, I find myself in this position. I want to create a close-knit, fun-loving family and raise children with upstanding character. So I’ve asked the parents of the families I admire what their “secret” is to creating such a tight family bond. They all pretty much say the same thing:

They’re intentional about creating and fostering a positive family culture. 

We typically don’t think of families as having a culture. Countries and communities have cultures, but not families. Right?

Well, in recent decades, organizational experts have argued that cultures not only develop in large societies like countries and cities, but also smaller ones, like corporations and non-profits. Sociologists and family experts say that even individual families have their own cultures.

What’s more, research has found that family culture plays a more important role in shaping a child than parenting styles, and the type of culture a family develops strongly predicts their happiness.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, we need to take a look at what exactly we mean by “family culture.”

What Makes a Family Culture?

To understand what family culture is, I think it’s instructive to see how business management experts define business culture. MIT professor Edgar Schein describes it thusly:

“Culture is a way of working together toward common goals that have been followed so frequently and so successfully that people don’t even think about trying to do things another way. If a culture has formed, people will autonomously do what they need to do to be successful.”

A culture is, in short, a way a group of people think, feel, judge, and act. You can probably sense the culture at the business or organization you work for. Is morale low and does everyone sort of half-ass it and just do the bare minimum? Or is there an unspoken expectation that people always go above and beyond the call of duty and take pride in doing so? Does the employee identify with the company and its vision, or just see it as a temporary gig? Before making any decision, do employees only consider short-term profits or do they also take into account long-term success and even other intangibles like social and environmental impact? What an employee instinctively does – even when the boss isn’t looking — will depend on the business’s culture.

Some businesses have become famous for their positive cultures. Online shoe retailer Zappos has a culture that encourages above-and-beyond customer service. Everything the company does is geared towards “wowing” the customer. To ensure that they only hire employees that will fit into that culture, Zappos has a long and extensive hiring process to weed out folks who aren’t willing to put the customer first. If you’re lucky enough to get a job offer, they will actually offer you $3,000 to NOT take the job. Zappos would rather lose $3,000 in the short-term than hire someone who’s not fully on board with their distinct business culture. The effort in crafting a customer-first culture paid off handsomely for Zappos, as it was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for nearly $1.2 billion.

A business culture like Zappos’ just doesn’t happen. It takes a lot of work. As Forbes writer Mike Myatt argues, business culture is created either by design or by default. Culture created by default tends to produce mediocre results because humans have a natural tendency to take the path of least resistance. If a business wants a culture of excellence, its leader must intentionally create that culture and work hard to maintain it.

As it goes with businesses, so it goes with families. It may seem a little off-putting at first to apply business principles to what we think of as the ethereal, spontaneous bonds of blood kin. But there are definitely parallels between the two organizations that can be instructive, even if the aims and definition of success for each entity differs.

Every family has a distinct way they work together to solve problems, achieve goals, and relate to one another. And just as business culture is created by default or through intentionality, so too is a family’s culture.

Family cultures created by default are just like their business culture counterparts: mediocre. Parents haven’t thought through what kind of values they want to impart to their kids, and just figure that those values, as well as close bonds between family members, will just happen as the years go by. They then wonder why their kids didn’t turn out the way they had vaguely imagined and hoped for, but never articulated or planned out.

Understand this: A family culture happens whether you’re consciously creating it or not. It’s up to you and your wife to determine whether that culture is of your choosing. If you want a positive family culture, you must commit yourself to years of constant planning and teaching. A culture isn’t something that’s created overnight; it requires daily investment. But the payoff is definitely worth it.

The 3 Pillars of Family Culture

So how do you go about creating a family culture? Organizational experts have pinpointed three main aspects:

Values. Values are the foundation of a family culture. Values give a family an overarching purpose and guide as to how each family member acts and behaves in different situations. Positive family values could include kindness, mutual support, respect, sacrifice, hard work, fun, and service. Each family’s set of values will be different from the next and will be shaped by things like education, religion, and family history. Family values can also be negative. In some families, petty competition, resentment, and entitlement are the guiding values. Negative family values typically appear when family culture is created in default mode.

Positive values require constant reinforcement, both through norms (see below), and talking with your children. For example, let’s say your kid knows you’re going out for ice cream later, but decides he wants to go now and starts throwing a tantrum. Operating in default mode, you’d just yell something like, “Cut it out and go to your room!” But if you’re trying to instill the value of delayed gratification as part of your family culture, you’d say something like, “I know you want ice cream now, but we need to stop by and see grandma first. Sometimes in life we want things right away, but we have to wait and finish other things first.” You then send him to his room and have the same talk when he’s calmed himself down. You do this even if he doesn’t seem to be listening, and you do it every single time he has a tantrum that is rooted in the same issue.

Norms. Norms are the spoken and unspoken rules of how a family operates; they represent your values in action. Norms guide how family members interact with one another and with the outside world. Examples of family norms include things like how family members resolve conflict (yelling? passive-aggressiveness? calm, assertive discussion?) and how and if children help out around the house. Norms are conveyed both by example and by intentional inculcation.

For example, if you want a family culture where work is valued, then you need to thoughtfully design opportunities for your kiddos (including your tots) to work and help out around the house. Because we want to encourage this value in our family, Kate and I find ways for our two-year-old, Gus, to pitch in with chores. Oftentimes it takes longer to get the job done with Gus “helping,” but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is trying to raise a child who appreciates hard work and understands the necessity of pulling his own weight in our family and in society.

In the absence of the setting of examples and rules, families will slip into default mode and norms will usually end up following the path of least resistance, devolving into things like incivility, laziness, and apathy.

Rituals/Traditions. Rituals and traditions are a set of behaviors and routines that provide a family a sense of identity and purpose. They provide cohesion to the nuclear family and connection to extended family. Rituals and traditions can be big things like family reunions and special activities around holidays, but they can also be small things like family dinners or game nights. This also includes rites of passage for your children as they go through various stages in life.

As with the other two pillars, rituals and traditions can either be created by design or default. When left to default, you end up with family rituals that feel empty and unsatisfying and don’t bring you any closer — like nightly TV watching or vacations where everyone spends the entire time looking down at their smartphones.

The How to Develop a Family Culture Roadmap

Have you spent much time thinking about these 3 pillars of family culture? Have you pondered what the purpose of your family is and what you think family means? Do you have a clear vision of what you want your family to be like and how you want each member to feel about and treat each other?

Are you a leader in your home or do you just kind of let your family drift along through chance and circumstance?

These are vital questions for a father to contemplate. I know I want my kids to not simply have a vague idea of being part of our family, but to really feel like they belong to something special, and know exactly why it’s special and what the McKays value. I want them to do good and treat others right not because we’re watching, but because that’s just what McKays do.

It may seem that happy families are just naturally happy, but as it is with successful people in any arena, there’s usually a lot of effort and conscious practice going on behind the scenes. It looks easy because they truly enjoy it, and for this reason, they may not even experience it as effort. But, you can guarantee it still takes intentionality. 

With that in mind, over the next few months we’ll be exploring things we can do as fathers to develop a strong and positive family culture. All the suggestions are backed by research. Moreover, the suggestions will work whether you’re religious or not, conservative or liberal. The goal is to simply to provide a framework for dads to intentionally create the culture they want in their family, because an intentional family culture will always be better than one created by default.

Here’s a roadmap of the topics we’ll be covering in the next few months:

  • How to Create a Family Mission Statement
  • The Benefits of a Family Night and How to Plan One
  • Creating Family Rituals and Traditions
  • Resolving Family Conflict
  • How to Be a Transitional Father

P.S. Just because you don’t have kids yet doesn’t mean you should gloss over this topic. You can sit with a spouse and discuss your values and what kind of culture you’d like to have in the future, and get working towards it right away. You can’t instill positive values in children if you don’t practice them in your marriage first.

Read the other posts in the series: 
Creating a Positive Family Culture: How and Why to Create a Family Mission Statement
Creating a Positive Family Culture: The Importance of Establishing Family Traditions
60+ Family Tradition Ideas
Creating a Positive Family Culture: How to Plan and Lead a Weekly Family Meeting

_________

Sources:

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen

The Effects of Family Culture on Family Foundations

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Philip July 22, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Looking forward to reading more. Being a Father is one of the most important jobs a man can have. And, like any job a man takes on, it should be done well.

2 Casey Leavenworth-Keenberg July 22, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I love these relationship/family/fathering articles. My wife and I have a five-year-old son and a daughter due this November. For what personal anecdotal evidence is worth, I will attest that what we have consciously (i.e. intentionally) communicated time and time again to our son is what sticks with him. Through these talks, especially when he is struggling most or is most upset, he develops his values, his view of the world, and establishes how he relates to others. It is so refreshing to read affirming articles like this, and I am excited for what is to come in this series. Stay manly!

3 Dan July 22, 2013 at 9:17 pm

My first kid will be born in December. This is stuff I’ve considered but it will be great to have it organized this way instead of coming up with it by myself.

4 Russell July 22, 2013 at 9:50 pm

(Applause). Well done, Mr. & Mrs. McKay, well done. Looking forward to the next few months.

5 Etim Hedman July 22, 2013 at 9:54 pm

I really appreciate the attention this website spends on creating better men. Be it small, like simple skill acquisition (shaving, carving a turkey or shaking hands) or large, like the above article, this website is a gem. Keep ‘em coming. I cant wait for the follow ups to this one. Definitely my new favorite website.

6 Sasha July 22, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I can’t believe Gus is already 2… where does the time go…

This is one of my favorite articles on AOM so far. I particularly love the line “I want them to do good and treat others right not because we’re watching, but because that’s just what McKays do.”

My daughter is 4 and some things are working really well. She clears her plate and cup without being asked 85% of the time. She says please and thank you. She usually skips the temper tantrums and vocalizes what is troubling her (we’ve placed a strong emphasis on naming our emotions, instead of just lashing out)… but we still have a ways to go with other aspects of her development … really looking forward to the series.

7 Patrick July 23, 2013 at 12:17 am

I am a first time father. My son is 16 months old. It’s the most important, and scariest, thing I’ve ever done.

8 Jim July 23, 2013 at 12:37 am

That’s a wonderful picture at the beginning of this article.

9 jg July 23, 2013 at 1:48 am

Here is a good norm to understand:

just because a couple has a child (or children), does not mean that the child(ren) are now at the center of the family. The most important aspect of the family is the husband-wife relationship.

10 Tyrson July 23, 2013 at 1:53 am

We are the Rock our families cling too.
It is so important you don’t lose your cool, we as Men do not have the luxury emotional reaction. Remember our child has very little power to affect things, but the one thing their quite good at affecting is your “feelings”. Count to 10, but stay in control, instead of expressing anger, try disappointment.
I remember the wost thing my father could do to me, and it wasn’t the belt, but that look of disappointment.
With my son I’ve found giving him some rationale for our family “rules” and such works much better then “do what I say because I say it”.
Above all have fun, love, remember don’t sweat the small stuff, and most of it is small stuff.

11 Jason July 23, 2013 at 2:08 am

This article is fantastic and a reminder of why I keep returning to this site. Keep up the outstanding work!

12 Geoffry July 23, 2013 at 2:40 am

Thanks Brett! This is such a needed topic in our world. My fiancee and I have been starting to talk about how we want to build our family culture once we’re married and when we begin having children. This is such a timely post.
Also, thanks for the advice on asking a woman’s father for her hand in marriage – it helped me back in April to be very calm and collected when I asked my now fiancees parents. I really appreciate all you’re doing!

13 Jason July 23, 2013 at 6:46 am

Sounds like you would love the All Pro Dad website. They have a daily email that helps encourage and instruct fathers on how to be better dads. I look forward to following this series over the next few months.

14 Gonza July 23, 2013 at 6:51 am

I feel like someone was talking to me. I have finally found my distant counselor. Keep them coming.

15 Josh July 23, 2013 at 6:52 am

Great read. I am excited to see this series through. My wife and I have been discussing this subject thoroughly. Can’t wait for the next article. Thanks.

16 Jeff July 23, 2013 at 7:25 am

Great piece. As a dad blogger (http://www.dadpad.org), I always appreciate articles that lay out truth for young dads to cling to. There is no “manual” that follows the first child (or any child) out of the womb. And, with the increasing number of young men growing up in homes without a father to help them understand fatherhood and model, it’s no wonder so many don’t know what to do as a dad. The words that jump out our intentionality and consistency. Being a dad takes as much or more intentionality than the work you do or getting good at a hobby. Unfortunately, much of it is done at the end of a day when we are spent from the rigors of work and have little left for our wife and kids. But, that’s where it takes an intentional man to stay off the computer, put down the game, and as he drives up to his garage door remember that being a dad is the most noble role he has and when he runs through the door and his kids run into his arms there is no more gratifying thing in the world. It won’t always be like that. They grow up more quickly than we would like. But, our job is to love them well, teach them well, model a loving relationship for them by loving our wives and readying them for the day when they will have kids of their own. That’s called a healthy society. Great piece…I look forward to reading more. Thanks.

17 Ken July 23, 2013 at 7:47 am

I’m convinced that I was blessed with one of the last truly great fathers while my wife had one of the most broken ones. I’ve seen first hand the incredible difference a father makes. My first child arrives literally any day now. I am so looking forward to this series.

18 James Cain July 23, 2013 at 7:50 am

Very nice. Love AoM, and keep coming back for more. Two comments:

1. You wrote: “Each family’s set of values will be different from the next and will be shaped by things like education, religion, and family history.”

From that, it sounds like there might be a fourth “pillar,” a deeper layer of family culture: cosmology, how the family sees the world, what some people call “worldview.”

Cosmology is like the soil of the soul’s garden (or the real human being’s garden, if you prefer). Like the soil, it’s practically a living organism that needs careful cultivation too.

Which brings me to comment 2. We’re far from perfect in this, but virtue (Gk, arete, moral excellence) seems like a better target than values. Values try to be neutral. My neighbor’s are just as “valuable” as mine, even if he happens to value resentment or revenge or racism. I can say his are “negative,” while mine are “positive,” but it’s just perspective, right?

Not all that long ago, though, cultures talked about virtues and vices: the one Good and the other Evil. Haven’t we lost something important there?

Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

19 Tom July 23, 2013 at 7:55 am

This article has come at the perfect time for me. I found out three weeks ago that I’m going to be a father and I’ve been wondering for years how to go about becoming one of those families that just “has it together”

20 tim roland July 23, 2013 at 7:58 am

I’m loving this site and have been visiting for years. Very refreshing and empowering compared to what I see as the “pussification” of men in the media – especially in family sitcoms. I’m tired of seeing Dads being the bumbling fool of the family who is constantly overruled by Mom and put down by the kids. While not taking yourself to seriously is a good thing, there is a line where a good natured ribbing starts to tur into a culture of disrespect.

21 Ethan July 23, 2013 at 8:01 am

I’ve begun to realize the importance of ritual myself, and like you mentioned, how it is easy for rituals to be created by default. As anything of value it takes work to create a family culture, but that doesn’t mean the “work” can’t be fun and rewarding. Looking forward to the rest of the articles, especially creating a family mission statement, as I’ve been wanting to do this a long time, but that may be due to watching too much Game of Thrones, which brings me back to my first point.

22 Derek July 23, 2013 at 8:29 am

Thank you. I’m recently married and terrified of becoming a dad because I want to create a great family that loves each other. This was a great view on the subject. I look forward to reading more.

23 Michael July 23, 2013 at 8:38 am

Excellent Article… It really hits home for me… I have 2 year old daughter and twin girls due in October. I find it important to instill this type of culture for my girls so in later life they may pass it on to their families…

24 Hutch July 23, 2013 at 8:51 am

The statement “It’s up to you and your wife to determine whether that culture is of your choosing.” As a second chance father – I have managed to do a little better the second time but wish I had just some of this information (or someone in my life to encourage me around it), maybe the first chance would have worked better.

25 Ryan July 23, 2013 at 8:56 am

McKays,

I’m really looking forward to this series on fostering family culture. My wife and I have a one year old, and we are already trying to stress independence and self-sufficiency with him (he sets his own place at the table for meals!). Can’t wait for more suggestions. Keep it up.

26 lady brett July 23, 2013 at 9:29 am

lovely article. i just wanted to add to the p.s. that if you are intentional about your values as a family without kids, it can come fairly naturally to express those values when you interact with kids – even if you never have your own. i have noticed that the (young) kids we have taken care of tend to act based on *our* family values when they are with us and on others’ values when they are with them – so don’t discount your importance as a caretaker of any variety, even if you never become a parent.

27 Kang July 23, 2013 at 9:33 am

Thank you so much for doing this series. This is something that I am struggling with at the moment and your insight and guidance is very much appreciated.

28 John July 23, 2013 at 9:55 am

Great article and great subject. So goes the father – so goes the family – so goes the community – so goes the nation.

Raising five children, I have found two basic principles invaluable:

1. Love their mother, my wife, with all my heart.

2. Have a daily family altar – it will alter a family.

29 Amy July 23, 2013 at 10:05 am

Thank you for your words – so good to remember the importance of building deep relationships with those who matter most.

30 Andrew July 23, 2013 at 10:12 am

It’s a nice reminder that the family is really the cornerstone on which society is built. I very much appreciate the connection that if the family culture goes into default, then so goes society. All the more reason that the father’s presence in the family is a necessity. Great article! I look forward to the future articles.

31 RoryI July 23, 2013 at 10:22 am

I am expecting my first son in December as well, and this is a topic I have been struggling to understand, codify and implement to instill the values my wife and I have into our son.

Thank you for this timely(for me) article, and I look forward to the series!

32 David Ulmer July 23, 2013 at 10:48 am

You nailed it! That picture is so beautiful.

You nailed it with the culture concept as well. I’ve thought of it as our family traditions, but it is clearly a subculture. It is making an environment where the fruit of the spirit can grow. Let me say this to you young dads. I’m 46 with 9 kids. My oldest is 21, starting her first year of teaching having graduated last year and my youngest is 2. Success is not giving up. Remain engaged now matter how many times you blow it, fall short, and have to apologize to everyone for acting like the 4 year old. Failure is NOT messing up, failure is giving up. Never, never, never give up. Pray, pray, and keep praying. Never give up. With Christ ALL things [good] are possible.

33 Nicholas July 23, 2013 at 11:10 am

There is a book that came out in February “The Secrets of Happy Families” by Bruce Feiler. I picked up a copy and have read it cover to cover. Most of the information found in this article is discussed in that book as well as testimonials from the author’s visits to families. Worth a read if you liked this article.

Here’s the Amazon link:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Secrets-Happy-Families-Mornings/dp/0061778737

34 GT July 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm

@David
Amen! Thanks for the great post AOM.

35 Kate July 23, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I loved this article, and I know my husband will love it too! I work with the public and I feel like all day, every day I see the effects of NOT parenting intentionally. We see kids after school (or all day, during the summer) with no parents to be found, hungry, bored and acting out for attention. On the rare occasion I do see a parent, they act as though they couldn’t care less about the child, eyes glued to their phone, ignoring the child or snapping at her to “shut up” because they’ve got more important things to do.

I grew up in a family where I knew what was important, and that I had value. I really hope to be able to build that same sort of culture with my husband and pass it along to our children some day. Can’t wait for the rest of this series!

36 Alex July 23, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I’m a single, 28 year old college student. I’ve recently been beset upon by a great need to understand what it is to be a man and figure out why I’m still single. I’m definitely not single by choice. I found that who I want to be has a great deal to do with the kind of family life I want to have, which also dictates the kind of woman I want to marry. That might sound obvious to others, but it only just clicked for me. This article in particular is very helpful. While the family culture I one day establish in my family will be a product decided upon by both myself and my wife, I’m going to start taking the ideas of how to implement culture and what the culture ought to be very seriously now. Really, an excellent article.

37 Mike Myatt July 23, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Thanks for including me in your article Brett. Keep up the great work Sir.

Best,
Mike

P.S.
Here’s another related piece that might resonate with you: http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/01/27/the-true-test-of-leadership

38 Colin J July 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Brett, thanks for going to great lengths on this. Society needs good dads, especially now: we’ve seen a sharp increase in fatherless homes, especially in the African American communities. I think the analogy of fatherhood as a thought-out job with day to day tasks to better your “culture” is very effective. I think of all the little moments that I’ve failed as a dad, and they are most often those times that I was coasting. I was either reacting lazily with emotion or just wanting to get past an issue just to avoid stress. The times I feel I did the right thing are when I stopped, thought about what this moment really means to my child, and sought to teach and lead. Anyway, looking forward to most on this topic!

39 Atilla July 23, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Absolutely the husband-wife relationship is primary over the kids. Marriage should be for life together…the kiddos quickly leave to start their own lives. A solid marriage is one of the best gifts you can give your kids.

Realize love is about what you do toward others every day and not about how you feel.

Keep a daily routine, don’t sweat the small stuff and never ever let the inmates (kids) run the asylum.

40 Brad July 23, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Thank you, Brett. A timely word for my family and I, and a huge help to me. I’m greatly looking forward to the articles ahead.

41 Ivan July 23, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Another outstanding, post! Thank you!

42 Wil July 24, 2013 at 7:08 am

I have been trying to explain this to my wife for the last year or so (we are newlyweds and she is an only child and a fair bit younger than me). I have been working on making time at home for traditions and trying to instill a ‘teamwork’ relationship between us because Ive seen how important it will be later in life. She is starting to catch on but this article lays it out so much more effectively than I could. I just sent her the link. thanks for doing what you do.

43 Alex July 24, 2013 at 8:01 am

Great idea and I’m sure the next articles will come in handy to any man interested in being a great dad and the pillar of his family. I’ve been talking with my girlfriend about having kids after we’re going to get married but we still have a lot to discuss on the subject and this series of articles can be the perfect occasion for that.

Thank you AoM. I’m patiently waiting for the next part.

44 Eric Granata July 24, 2013 at 10:39 am

Looking forward to this series. This is the sort of thing my wife and I should have been doing intentionally years ago. Now our oldest is 9 and time keeps passing!

45 Noelan July 24, 2013 at 10:47 am

Very applicable post for this day and Age,

Despite being 21 this topic has always been of extreme interest to me.

Thank you :)

46 Sean July 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I may be single without kids, but I’m still pumped about reading this series. This will definitely be information that I store away until the time comes.

47 Jim Lee July 24, 2013 at 6:56 pm

This is helpful!

48 Justin July 25, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Great article. Being a father is tough and reading this not only reinforced many of my thoughts and approaches but gave me even more ideas to put to use. I look forward to more of these.

49 JohnyV July 25, 2013 at 3:43 pm

My family started with a mission statement and would have “family meetings” often talking about the values in the mission statement. We would invite friends over to the meetings and they always enjoyed the messages that Mom & Dad prepared and the ensuing dialogue (plus the food was always good). As we moved away (college), we would get together every Christmas and make minor changes to it, to reflect where our lives were then. We would print copies, sign it and hang it where we lived. Now we are all starting our own families, I have a 6 month old. My wife and I are talking about what we want on our “mission statement.” This article captured very well the importance of a great family … its not accidental but something you work at. One final note to add that most people forget. Nothing is more sad than a family that used to be close that is torn apart by a tragic event and happens very often when the death of a family member occurs and members fight over rights to certain important memorabilia. I can’t describe how often I have heard of this problem. But a family who is principally and value driven, who can communicate through difficult issues such as this, will find ways to overcome this very touchy subject. Look forward to the remaining notes. Cheers and thank you.

50 Vern July 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Good article, many very good points.
I read the comments and I envy the guys with young children or with children on the way. My sons are grown and on their own, and I really miss the times we had when they were young. Enjoy them while they are little, the years fly by so fast.

51 Keegan July 25, 2013 at 6:57 pm

This is a great article. As a Transman, who has been following this for at least 5 years, I deeply appreciate all of the advice you have been dispensing to me on my path to Manliness. I was lost more than once with out a clear role model and I could find something I was looking for right here almost every time. It seems like you are following the path of my life just as I need it, so I thank you. It saddens me that in this article you choose to write “wife” instead of “partner” or “spouse”. I’m a straight Transman, with a girlfriend, soon to be my wife if she will have me and I want to have children with her which is why this article is so exciting to read about. It’s been my life goal to live as a man and to do so undetected but I know where I came from. I’m sure it doesn’t make you comfortable to write “partner” just as it doesn’t make me comfortable to out myself to the entire community but intentionally happy families can have manly “partners” or “spouses” and still be manly. I really think it’s the right thing to do to be more inclusive without actually touching on the topic. I have always appreciated how thoughtfully and gingerly you have side stepped important topics like religion and politics while still getting to the core of important themes like family, personal growth and societal roles/ responsibility. I would appreciate it if you would take this into consideration in future articles and politely educate me if you have already considered this idea but as to why you decided to decline.

52 Andy July 25, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Fantastic article! Family life as we would like to know it doesn’t last that long before we fly the nest so to speak. Keeping a culture of loving and trust from the start is a great way to go i think.

53 Yale Landsberg July 26, 2013 at 5:00 pm

We find this article very special because it seems to not require families to follow any formal faith in order to see their family unit as “sacred”. So we’ve added this article’s link to our familycology,org site.

If our assumption that your future articles will be equally non-dogma, we are hoping to one day be able to advertize our almost finished free TGNOS ebook on your site.

Warmest regards, Yale and Jackie

54 James Deeds July 26, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I’ll start by saying that my relationship with my dad is odd. I love him but we but heads a lot. He did a good job instilling honor, honesty, and intregity in his 4 kids. My brother and sisters went their own way.( drugs/alcohol). I have done my best to live the right way like he taught me. However, he’s always been overbearing, controlling, for years he convinced me to sign my paychecks over to him and my step mom under the guise that I was helping the family,( I lived with them at the time), he has always tried to guilt me into things like driving to Texas when we were broke or had to work, and has been a dad that used the term ” because I said so”. That being said, I met my son(step son technically) when he was 12. I have tried to do most things the way I thought they should be done between parent and child. He’s about to be 18 and is an amazing son. We have developed a great bond. It took a lot of hard work and alot of give and take but we’re better than we were and he really makes me feel like a dad. And, most of the advice I’ve received has been from the AOM community and Bret McKay. So thank you everyone. I look forward to the rest of these posts. Sorry for the long post. Mr. McKay, awesome job once again
JD

55 Isaac July 26, 2013 at 9:29 pm

I’m also a young father trying to develop a strong family culture and sense of tradition. Really looking forward to future articles on the subject because, let’s face it, a father’s role in the family is often marginalized and over looked by society. Keep up the good work!

56 Brandon July 26, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Long time reader, but this has got to be one of my favorite articles! My wife and I had a long road trip home to Seattle along the Oregon coast and this article sparked a long, fun discussion about what we want for our two boys (3 and 5 weeks). Brett – would love to share what we came up with if you need any anecdotes!

57 Brannigan July 27, 2013 at 11:18 am

I can’t tell you how much I need this right now. Thank you and carry on.

58 Flip July 27, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Having found AoM by chance a while ago while trying to get info on straight razor shaving, I have been following it ever since and this is one of the best ideas I’ve seen so far.
My family was always one of those described at the beginning and I have been trying to instill the same thing to my family now.
Having the McKays input will undoubtedly be a plus.
So thank you Kate and Brett.
Keep up the good work.

59 Nathan July 27, 2013 at 10:57 pm

About a year ago, after watching a presentation about gratitude, my wife and I decided to think of and say three things we’re each grateful for during dinner. Often it’s just something good that happened that day, sometimes it’s something bigger. But it’s a great family ritual that reinforces the value of gratefulness that we both want to foster, and we always invite our houseguests to include their own gratitudes.

60 Ben July 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Great article.

As an about-to-be new father in a couple months I am looking forward to and already cherishing the type of family culture we can cultivate and build for our family and all around us.

I wish more people had the forethought to think about and implement such ideas rather than rush through a faux-busy life with no intentions of what they are doing or where they are going.

Ben

61 Damien July 31, 2013 at 4:24 am

This post reminds me of a consideration about adolescence: although the goals and values fixed by parents are exessively important in the early stages of life, there comes a time where mere acceptance of models is not satisfactory anymore. Adolescents rebel because, as good as they may be, the house’s rules are not completely THEIR rules. Thus, a parent has to come to terms with a new code of morality emerging, and aid the child by directing him/her towards argumented roadmaps (phylosophy books, religious ones, etc.) Often, the final rules that the child adopts will be similar to the parent’s, yet the actual choice helps enormously the identity morphing of that age.

62 LT August 4, 2013 at 12:09 am

As an adult man, I am beginning to understand some of what my father was thinking when he was my age. My father came from a broken home and I believe that he and my mother literally willed our family to be what he had wanted as a child. eating together , working together and playing together. I can remember at the age of 3 having to do chores ( helping to water the dogs and bring in fire wood) latter on we planted a garden of 636 tomato plants and tended them in the morning then hauled hay in the afternoon. To this day we are an extremely close and tight knit group. unfortunately this also makes it rather hard at times to bring any one else in to the group
( girlfriends ) . I can see now that my father was trying to make up for my grandfathers short comings and he was trying to be the father he had always wanted.

63 Joel August 4, 2013 at 10:55 pm

I really enjoyed this article. Mega kudos!!! I shared it with my wife and she loved it too.

I’m looking forward -and actually waiting- for the post on family mission statement.

64 tom blair August 5, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Wonderful article. Thank you for it. Western civilization is dying for want of families – with children – lead by fathers.

65 charlieh August 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Love this article. I will watch for the updates as you continue this series. I really feel like the modern family is becoming more like co-habitation. Too many stimuli distracting from the items you set out on the roadmap. Back in college Anthro 101, my prof said “culture isn’t good or bad, it just is”. Unfortunately, I think without the intentional act of creation you describe we often don’t end up with the culture we want, we simply settle for the default.

66 Ken August 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm

On the subject of tantrums and explaining why they can’t have what they want right now, it occurred to me that sometimes it cuts the other way.

On two fairly recent occasions I have seen reasonable suggestions from older children, 9 to 10 years old, rejected out of hand with no good reason given. This will annoy or frustrate anyone.

On these occasions the child turned out to be right and only when all other avenues had been explored and discarded, were their suggestions tried.

A child’s mind is uncluttered by experience which sometimes plays adults false.

Just an observation.

67 Chelsie August 21, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Emphasis on that final thought– practicing in your marriage first! My man and I are playing catch-up on our family order in the midst of our 1 yr old. It’s possible to amend habits and create family culture with kids, but much more demanding on time, energy, and patience.
When you cultivate your habits, values, etc.. as a couple first, you provide framework for your family which relieves the often-chaotic early years of parenting.

68 K August 21, 2013 at 10:02 pm

I just want to comment that The Art of Manliness is one of the best sites I have ever found. Even as a woman, I read this website often, and gain much insight from it. This particular article(well, and all the others, too) is one that I will share with my husband.

69 Vince Corvelli October 17, 2013 at 6:55 am

What is wrong with this country is attributed to the breakdown of The family good traditions. This is one of your best subjects.

70 Jasbir October 24, 2013 at 2:09 pm

All great ideas. With regards to rituals and traditions, you can’t leave out religion for those who subscribe to one. In fact, I’d say religious families excel in this category the best because they have family prayer time and celebrate important religious holidays to the fullest, e.g. EASTER and CHRISTMAS.

God bless.

71 Caroline January 20, 2014 at 10:09 pm

As a single mother, I appreciate these guidelines immensely. I wish I had read this when my daughter was born. There is still time for change though, and this article has given me hope. Thank-you, from a mother that needs to be more manly :)

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