Cultivate the Culture
Culture is created by what's important to us. Whether we realize it or not, our home has a culture. As parents, we are given the gift, and responsibility, to cultivate the culture of our home.
The culture we grow up in generally feels normal to us. Oftentimes, we repeat our “normal.” Depending on the culture of our household growing up, we can build on an amazing foundation, or we can repeat negative patterns.
Take a few moments to reflect:
What is the current culture of our home?
What was the culture of my childhood home?
What was the tone used in family conversation (loud, quiet, closed off, passive, kind)?
How did I feel in my home?
Do I want to create for my family the same culture I grew up in? Why or Why not?
Am I repeating the “normal” I grew up in? Is this how I want to parent?
Because culture is created by what’s important to us, as parents, we have to decide what qualities we want to cultivate in our children. We can ask ourselves, “What do we want our family to be known for?” After taking an honest look at our current culture, we may want to make changes.
When our oldest three kids were all under the age of six, a lifetime mentor asked me and my husband, Dan, a great question. She said, “What do you want your home to look like now, and what do you want it to look like ten years from now? At first this question felt overwhelming. After thinking about it a while longer, we realized she was empowering us now, while our kids were still young, to shape both the current and future culture of our home.
Questions like that can feel scary, yet self-evaluation is powerful and life-giving. Take a moment and ask yourself the same questions: What do I want to cultivate in our household? What do I want the culture of my home to be?
Creating and growing a culture takes time, just like planting. Over the years I’ve bought many plants. I always get so excited bringing these bright pops of greenery into my home. I place it in a nice sunny spot, I water it, and then, despite my best intentions, life happens. I get busy or distracted. I forget to water it. It gets scorched by the sun. That happy little plant starts to wither. But, if I reset my intentions, if I move it to a better spot in the shade, if I water it and give it a little more attention, it begins to bloom. I also have a few fake plants in my home, they just sit there, adding greenery. They never grow or change, they lack roots.
Some relationships can feel like they are broken or need mending, yet, there is hope that, with the right attention, they can thrive. Other relationships feel fake or lack depth; without roots to grow, that relationship will never expand or evolve. It will stay stagnant, pretty on the outside, but without any depth or real, personal connection. Looking at the reality of our relationships helps us decide where to start taking steps toward depth and growth.
We can take steps toward growing in our relationship with our spouse and kids. Parenting is made up of moments, not once a year vacations or eating dinner at the same table once or twice a week. We cultivate the culture of our home in the ordinary moments day after day. Even on the rainy days and the stormy days when life is hard, we get to create pockets of fun, moments of peace, joyful time spent with one another.
The result of cultivating consistently is that an amazing culture grows, unique to each home. Our parenting choices to be loving, kind, wise, and prayerful result in growing enjoyable, thriving relationships with our kids, teens, and adult children.
We are given the amazing gift to create the culture we want to live in by our own choices, moment after moment.
Creating a culture takes self-reflection, first we must face our “real.”
Do I enjoy the current culture of our home? Why or why not?
Are there changes I need to make?
When Addi (age 18) and Owin (age 20) were ages three and five, they lived in a constant argument. At one point Owin pushed Addi in the pool, she didn’t know how to swim. Another time Addi ran over Owin with her Dora motorized bike. They bickered constantly. We tried to correct them and push them to be kinder to each other. Our efforts were futile until we faced the source of conflict…us! We had to own it; we were growing a mess.
Year seven of our marriage with three kids under the age of six, Dan and I had to look in the mirror and come to the realization that they were learning all of these bad habits from us! They were modeling our tone, our words, and our attitudes toward one another. This wakeup call was painful and required steps toward improvement on our part. We both had changes to make. Our pattern of blaming each other made matters worse. I was bitter, he was frustrated. There wasn’t any big scandal in our marriage, yet our home was not a fun, peaceful, or enjoyable place to be.
We faced our mess and met with a counselor. We worked through books, asked ourselves hard questions, and learned to work together. The change was not instant, yet within months of watching us work on our attitude toward one another, our kids started making progress in changing the way they treated each other.
Figuring out what we wanted the culture of our home to look like took some time to formulate. Dan and I each came up with a list, and then we picked our top five. Both Dan and I wanted our marriage to bless our children. We wanted our home to be a place where each of our kids would want to be, a place of kindness, and a safe haven, somewhere they would learn to serve and give, and where love is the response. The outside world can try to tear us down, we desired for the culture of our home to be a place where we encourage and build one another up. Both of us wanted our children to have a foundation of faith. I wanted my kids, when they became adults, to want to come visit, not because they felt obligated to, but because they truly enjoyed spending time with us and each other. Picturing what the future will look like is powerful! We are not just parenting for today, for we are laying a foundation for our future relationship with our adult children!
As parents, it is our responsibility to make this culture happen. Kids rarely respond with honor and grace unless they are coached in kindness, respect, humility, and unselfishness.
Together, we thought through a few questions about how we wanted to achieve this culture. We created steps to repeat day after day, year after year. Each couple can come up with answers unique to their desired family culture and find their own ways to implement.