What is your family identity? Are you musical? Sportsy? Political? Animal lovers? Drama people? Motorcyclists? Each family has its own identity and uniqueness. No two families are exactly alike. Let’s share some examples. Your neighbors could be sportsy, traveling surfers. (Man, that sounds like some weird rock group.) Another family could be car nuts, vegetarian, Sci-Fi junkies. Now, that HAS to be a singing group.
Some of this family identity will be planned; some will evolve. For example, my hubby and I definitely planned on having a Scouting family. My dad and brother were big Scouters. I loved it. My hubby had his Eagle Scout award AND worked at Scout Camp for three summers. It was love at first sight. Lucky for us, we had four sons. We all became quite the avid Scouters. This was a planned family identity.
Other family identities will evolve over time. Carmen’s family has become artistic after the children began to develop a love for art that spread to the parents. The Cortez family became avid hikers when they moved to Alaska.
Make your family identity broad enough so that everyone will fit into your identity. For example, “We’re the creative family.” That can fit in with Susie who paints beautifully and Sam who cooks like a master. “We’re the reading family” can include Dad who loves spy novels to Jose who adores Harry Potter.
What is the point to this? You can use your family identity to teach your children independence and your family’s values and morals. It serves as a framework for instruction. You can hang many lessons on this identity framework for what I call “stealth teaching.”
For example, let’s say you are a sports family. You love to watch and participate in sports. How can you use that to teach your children independence and family values? Well, let’s look at the lessons that can be taught with sports participation:
1. Perseverance – this one is an obvious no-brainer
4. Teamwork and cooperation
5. Striving for excellence and not compromising
6. Motor skills and ability
7. Health and nutrition
And, you thought they were just having fun playing Little League.
The family identity serves to teach many of the principles and behaviors that your children will need to know to be outstanding, independent adults. Throughout this learning-teaching process, they are acquiring knowledge and wisdom they didn't even know they’re being taught. It's “stealth teaching” at its best.
You can also use the family identity model to teach skills. For example, your family identity may be "science fiction buffs." Now you want your child to learn to bake a cake, learn how to use tools, and clean their room. How can you use this identity and make rather bland and boring tasks fun and interesting?
Invite the child to bake a cake and decorate it like a space ship. Blue frosting is very appealing to most children. Rather than saying, “You have to bake a cake.” Say, “You get to create a spaceship. Here are all your materials.”
If the child needs to learn to use tools? Give him some scrap wood and metal and say, “Go make me an alien.”
If he needs to clean his room? Tell him his room is the bridge on the ship and he needs to clean it and have it inspected by the captain. Show him on TV. “Do you see lots of stuff on the floor? Can you imagine the captain tripping over all this stuff in the middle of an alien attack? What if they hit anti-gravity? All the stuff piled on your dresser and bed would go whipping around the room and knock somebody out! Let’s get this room so clean that it can survive going through anti-gravity.” By now your child thinks you’re a nutcase, and they’re giggling. But, guess what? You walk in and say, “I’m the captain, and we’re under attack. How clean is my bridge?” You bet they’ll be thinking about it when they’re cleaning. They’ll strive to get it looking like the spotless TV version.
Teach to the child’s strengths
The possibilities of incorporating your family identity are endless. You are teaching to the child’s strengths and using them to accomplish your goal of teaching them independence.
Here is one more example. Your family identity is "good shoppers." Don’t laugh. This is my friend Diane. She is an absolute artist when it comes to shopping. Her family is following suit. Let’s say you want to teach about cars. Again, creativity and fun are key.
“Honey, a car engine is just like a big shopping mall. Here, you have the oil. That’s like the ATM that keeps the whole system running. If there wasn’t an ATM, the whole mall would seize up. The dipstick is used to check the balance and see if you need more cash in the machine. Here’s how you check your balance.” Aren’t you impressed? On we go, “This is the radiator. It’s like the giant air-conditioning system in the mall. If the air-conditioning blew out, everyone would be steaming mad and leave. The whole mall would shut down.” We could continue describing it in terms she understands completely. She’ll be laughing halfway through and making up stuff along with you. She’ll never look at an ATM quite the same ever again.
So you go to where the child’s strengths are and build from there, layering in tasks that need to be done. By all means, have a ton of fun with this! They may think you’re nuts. However, they’ll be having a ball and learning a lot in the process.