Creating Your Family Culture

By Theron Glenny

One year I bought my Dad an apple tree for Father’s Day.  My long-term plan was to buy a fruit tree every year on Father’s Day and eventually, he would have a small orchard for his grandkids to pick fruit from.  Great idea right?  I thought so too, but one problem.  I didn’t realize how much work it takes to steward the growth of an apple tree.  I literally thought I could just plant the tree in the ground and let it grow fruit. Wrong!  Did you know that it takes four years for a fruit tree to produce fruit?  I can assure you this fact was a surprise to me.  It was also a huge surprise to me how much tender-loving care a fruit tree needs to grow.  

Sadly, the orchard never materialized as all the trees I had bought died.  Weeds grew up all around them, gypsy moths and other bugs took over and deer browsed on the branches.  Those trees didn’t have a prayer because I didn’t plan well enough to take care of them so they could grow.  

I tell you this story because as my kids get older I’m finding more and more that my wife and I have to be very intentional about their growth.  Where I messed up the most with the fruit trees was cultivating the right environment for them to grow.  Smart fruit tree farmers know that you have to clear all the weeds and kill them off so they do not come back.  You also have to put fencing up so deer and other animals don’t eat the tree. In addition, you have to water the tree regularly and not solely depend on rainfall.  There are other dynamics as well but you likely get the picture.  I didn’t create the environment needed to foster development and growth.  

Environment and culture are synonymous.  What culture are you creating at your home to foster your family's growth?  

Are you clearing the weeds out?  What are the weeds? What currently sucks life out of your family?  Is your culture positive?  What tv shows do you have on?  What music do you listen to?  In the evening, do you just turn on the tv and watch shows all night or do you try to have real conversations with your family?  What is your bed time routine with your kids?  What is your morning routine?  How do you talk to each other?  How do you pray together?  What words do you declare over each other? 

I’m tossing out a ton of questions because they are too important to overlook.  They all speak to the kind of culture you are building at your home.  Research has increasingly shown the culture of a company cannot be ignored.  Sujan Patel writes, "Companies often take a passive approach to culture. They figure it's not something they can control - or that they need to control. If they leave it alone, it'll all work itself out.”  

Doesn’t this sound like my approach to fruit trees - plant them, leave them alone and they’ll grow?  Basically, ‘It’ll all work itself out’.  I see this applying to parenting too.  Sometimes as parents, we take a passive approach to our family culture because we don’t think it’s something we can influence.  If we embrace a passive mentality to building culture, we make a huge mistake.

I like what Patel writes and I’m going to spin a few of his points on culture so they speak to us as parents.  

  1. Culture builds identity - Every family has an identity.  What is yours?  What is your family known for?  What do you want your family to be known for?  And, what type of culture can you create as a parent that will produce the identity you desire? 
  2. Culture increases the loyalty bond of a family - When a family has a culture that includes a set of values it operates by, it forms an unshakable bond the family shares.  What are the values you and your family want to establish in your home?  
  3. Culture attracts - As humans, we are attracted to clarity.  Why do we love watching movies?  Because movies have clear stories that capture our imagination.  Clarifying your culture will attract your family and in the toughest of times, when confusion seems to be all around you, your culture and it’s values will stand as lighthouses showing your family the way to live together. 

Our home culture is something we as parents can influence and must influence.  Don’t be passive about building culture.  Please don’t put it on the shelf for a rainy day.  It’s too important.  As parents, we have to create the right environment for our family to grow and prosper.  It starts with us being intentional.