Why a Family Doctrine is a Great Idea

how creating a family doctine creates a happy familyThe birthday celebration table was full of family and friends when eight year old Caroline blared “you’re so stupid” at her six year old brother.  He had just allowed a double scoop of chocolate ice cream to fall off of his cone and on to the carpet.  Before her mother could render the telltale parenting “apologize right now” glare, Caroline recalled her family doctrine.  The third entry states “The Hughes family will not publically “diss” or embarrass other family members.”  She swiftly turned to her brother and said “I’m sorry.  You’re not stupid.”   Mom breathed a sigh of relief.  The laminated piece of paper framed on their refrigerator door alleviated an escalation of sibling angst and the need for her to be the big bad consequence giver!

A family doctrine can be a vital tool in cultivating family harmony and positive values in kids. 

Not to be confused with a punishable set of rules, the doctrine is a type of mission statement for a family and is approached with an honor code mentality. 

Included in it are principles or values that all family members take pride in living by and by which they hold each other accountable.  Perhaps most importantly, it is a place of belonging.

Coaching families to create their family doctrine has yielded to them creative ideas not to mention loving bonds and the foundation for new traditions. 

Every New Year’s Day (and as needed in between) the Cruise family revisits their doctrine. It has become a coveted tradition.  This year, their tween, Josie, suggested “The Cruise family will perform two R.A.C.K.s (random acts of caring kindness) every week.”  The acronym stands for Random Act of Caring Kindness.  Josie added the word “caring” because it reflected the value she calls “meaning it” otherwise known to adults as “sincerity.”   The family of five agreed that R.A.C.K.s were very achievable with simple acts such as taking someone else’s grocery cart from the parking lot back in to the store, putting a  family member’s shoes away without being asked, or simply smiling and saying a prayer so that even a grouchy stranger could find a better mood.   The Cruise’s agreed to share their R.A.C.K.s over family dinners.

After Mr. Baylor’s birthday was minimally acknowledged by his children, the Baylor family decided to honor all birthdays with a handmade card.  It didn’t matter if it was made from a sheet of white, lined paper.  They decided the heart inspired message is what mattered most.  They identified that the underlying value of love was what they were honoring. 

After identifying the value of integrity, the Menon family decided they would not lie (not even little white ones!).  The exception to this rule would be fooling each other to throw the perfect surprise birthday party!  Of course, when their 2 year old munchkin grows and tests his limits, they will be challenged.  Periodic lying is normal for children and Mr. and Mrs. Menon will have their work cut out for them to set limits and enforce them consistently.  Their family doctrine will help. Imagine the lessons this child will surely come to appreciate and be appreciated for.

Creating a family doctrine begins with the simple step of identifying values. 

Even one endearing value from each family member can generate a creative plan of action that builds character and so much more. 

Parents know that they are teaching their children productive life skills.  They also find that the simple sentence, “what does our family doctrine say?” often diffuses tense situations. 

Children find that some difficult choices are easier when they use the doctrine.  It can be a safe haven from which they can govern themselves positively.   When families routinely visit their doctrines, they set the stage to reflect upon their growth and celebrate successes.  Why not include celebrations in the family doctrine!

Creating a family doctrine is a meaningful endeavor that leads to a meaningful legacy.

“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything!”  (Quote author unknown)

Stand strong!

Reader comments are cherished! Please tell us about your ideas and successes.


  1. Good idea Keyuri!

    A new and positive way of using what Royals and the aristocracy call family mottos.

    Forbidding white lies is a bad idea though. What do you tell someone who has spend her savings on a dress she cannot return,is super happy but looks terrible wearing it?
    Catarina Alexon recently posted…What’s next for The New York Times?My Profile

    • Thanks for your comment Catarina. Whether or not to tell “white lies” is a very, very controversial subject. These particular clients felt it was important to them and thought they would use diplomacy or silence as needed to their advantage. My personal take is that whenever possible avoiding even white lies is best. If found out the hurt they cause is often worse than telling the lie. Just a thought…

  2. A family mantra and set of rules is definitely effective. I still remember my mom letting us know the words we were not allowed to say. “Stupid” was one of them. Funny story, my sister picked up giving the middle finger when she was 3. All thanks to my dad who used it when he was cut off on the road. We both started flipping each other off not knowing what the finger meant. Eventually we were caught and I alternately started using the pinky finger to symbolize the same old gesture. Till this day I use the pinky finger with my sister as a joke. All this to say, great advice, Keyuri.
    Dennis Salvatier recently posted…Every Little Thing She Does Is MagicMy Profile

  3. What a great idea Keyuri and such a simple way of teaching important lessons early in life.

  4. What a great idea! Love “RACKS”. We have four simple rules in our house (listen, respect (this turns into Be Nice for our 3 1/2 yr old), no whining or crying, no hitting) Because we only have 4 rules our son, 7 1/2 can repeat them easily when asked.

    However I think a separate doctrine is in order. We will keep this simple as well!

    Take care,
    Rajka recently posted…How to be a good mentor? Bonus: Top tips for medical studentsMy Profile

    • Thanks for your comment Rajka. I really like that your doctrine is simple enought that your 7 year old can recite four rules from memory. It’s wonderful to hear kis repeat things back to us. It lets everyone know that everyone is on the same page!

  5. Thank you for the insightful post. I think simple family rules connect family members and make them closer to each other , so I completely agree with the others that family doctrine is a really needful and cool idea!
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  6. I love the concept of a family doctrine. We have a rule in our house that you can’t do or say anything that is harmful to another person. However, I really like how specific and positive the doctrine is. Thanks for sharing!
    Pam at MoneyTrail recently posted…Teaching Your Kids about Money: February EditionMy Profile

    • Pam, Thanks for stopping by and sharing what happens at your house. I like that idea! What’s more is that it will make a child think before harming anyone else… at school, sports etc. What is valued at home is also valued outside the home. Good job Mom!

  7. Nice post Keyuri!

    This is my first visit to your blog and thanks so much for visiting my blog- guess i am sure glad to have stopped-by :)

    A very insightful post indeed! I guess the values instilled in our children while they are very young is what makes them to what they become when they are adults.

    I guess it works wonders for kids if parents have a family doctrine, anything that a family best relates to that would make the kids better and bond the family further. We too have certain family rules that I am glad we follow, and it is due to them that my kids are turning into good and responsible children.

    Thanks for sharing :)
    Harleena Singh recently posted…The Benefits of Having Dogs for ChildrenMy Profile

  8. This is a wonderful idea Keyuri. I especially like how the children play a part in creating it. Thanks for sharing.
    Sherryl Perry recently posted…Thanks to SEO a Newspaper Reporter in Pennsylvania Found my BlogMy Profile

    • Thanks Sherryl. So glad you picked up on the fact that kids are active participants in this process. As humans, we are more likely to engage in something if we are an active participant. In other words… no one likes hearing mandates!

  9. Hi Keyuri,
    Childhood is such an imperative time in our lives. We are beginning to learn who we are and where we fit in. Having strong values will go a long way to creating a well grounded adult.
    Justin Mazza recently posted…Fantastic Five Ways to Start a Weight Loss ProgramMy Profile

  10. Hi Keyuri,
    You know who needs a family doctrine the most? Divorced parents and their children. Have you ever considered branching out into counseling these “families” Keyuri?
    Catherine Lockey recently posted…Simple SEO for Small BusinessesMy Profile

    • You bet Catherine! I will work with any individual who is prepared to roll up the sleeves to make positive changes for themselves, and the family unit… no matter what it looks like. Single parents especially appreciate a coach whos “got their back” as they do the world’s most important job solo.

  11. Keyuri — When a family instills human values in their children, they will grow up stronger and apply those values to their daily lives. Nothing could be more important.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…How to Write An Email Using the Best Words in the Subject LineMy Profile

  12. Setting up a family doctrine is really a good way of instilling the proper values in any child. The best of it is that there is no sense of negativity which often comes with don’t do lists.
    Kurt recently posted…male dating adviceMy Profile

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