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Without a vision, the family perish

Published:Monday | February 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Taniesha Burke, Contributor

What is your family about? What is its essential for being? What are its high priority goals?

In asking ourselves these questions, we may begin to realise that we do not have a clear answer. We, however, may be quick to answer these same questions if they were asked about the company in which we work or the school we attend. This disparity and lack of vision is a major issue which may be a cause to problems we experience in the family.

Every family needs a compass or sense of direction to assist its members in succeeding. We would never invest our money in a business without a vision and long-term plan. So, why is it we neglect to be as vigilant with the family? One explanation could be the fact that we have not looked at the family with the same business eyes.

A family can have a better sense of direction and purpose by creating a vision statement, which is essentially a clear and unified expression of what the family is about, what it hopes to achieve and the principles and values that govern it. It is simply the blueprint which guides the family.

For the vision statement to be effective, it cannot be dictated to other members of the family. Its creation and sustainability requires the cooperation of all. A family meeting is a great occasion at which to discuss this topic. This meeting does not have to be long, but can be held once per week for about one hour.

In the initial process, it is important that you set the rules for each meeting, such as ensuring that each member can speak freely while others listen attentively and ensuring that everyone's opinion is respected.

Total involvement

Once the rules have been established, it is time to begin the brainstorming session. As a parent, you may ask your children how they think you can be a better parent; what makes them feel comfortable at home; or what kind of home they would want to invite their friends to. Total involvement is crucial; so, for the older children who are able to write, you may suggest that they also write questions or thoughts they feel should be included. Remember, the discussions on each point and question need to be open and free for the process to be effective.

To assist in the creation of your family's vision statement, here are a few additional questions you may consider:

What kind of family do we want?

What kind of feelings do we want to have in our home?

What kind of relationship do we want to have with one another?

How do we want to treat one another and speak to one another?

What things are truly important to us as a family?

What are our responsibilities as family members?

What makes us want to come home?

How can we contribute to society as a family and become more ser-vice-oriented?

Creating a family vision is not an overnight task. It may take weeks or months for it to be completed.

For the statement to be effective the process must involve all family members, and the final draft must be accepted by all. Also, the vision statement should never be set in stone but should be revised as the needs and circumstances of members of the family change.

Source: Covey S.R. (1997). 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. Golden Books: New York, NY

Taniesha Burke is the author of the book 'Raising the Next Barack Obama: A Guide on how to Develop Core Principles For Success in Your Child'. She can be reached for comments at