A Family Code of Ethics: Why It’s a Good Idea

A Family Code of Ethics: Why It’s a Good Idea

Corporations have them. Professional organizations have them. Sports teams have them. A code of ethics is a list of standards and expectations for the daily behavior and morals of a group of people working together.

Like any team, a family needs a set of standards for what is acceptable and what is not. I’m not talking about rules, but more about a set of guiding principles that everyone–parents included–sticks to. Your own ethics have probably grown out of a set of standards you have internalized throughout your life.

Having a family code of ethics, written and agreed upon by the family working as a team, helps our children make sense of the why of things. It gives them a filter by which they can judge their decisions and interpret the moral rightness of them.

How to write a family code of ethics

What topics should you include? Here are some general ideas to get you started. You know what your values are and what you want your children to learn:

  • Respect (for ourselves and others)
  • Stewardship (taking care of resources, maintaining possessions, etc.)
  • Trustworthiness
  • Responsibility
  • Perseverance
  • Kindness
  • Service to others
  • Fair play
  • Teamwork

First, have a family meeting, during which you talk about the definition of a code of ethics, and begin to brainstorm some ideas of what it should include. Write down every idea, without editing them. All ideas are welcome.

Give everybody time, a few days to a week, to mull over the list from the brainstorming session.

Get back together to narrow down the list. You may have to combine items, remove some, or make some suggestions more general.

Finalize the list. Stick to fewer than 10 items. Try to state each principle in one sentence, if possible [ Ex.–We have respect for ourselves and other people.]

Post the list in a prominent place, like the refrigerator door, where everyone can see it.

Refer to the list when conflicts or questions come up. Talk about how an issue or decision fits the family’s code of ethics. Talking about it can lead to better decision-making skills.


Remember that it’s a standard of behavior for everyone, not a rule book to hold over each other’s heads. The rules for proper behavior in your family should–and probably will–grow out of this code. The bigger picture is that it will help grow in your family an understanding of the importance of being true to what they know is right.

As it says in Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Grace is real–


Essential Qualities for Great Parenting

Essential Qualities for Great Parenting

What makes someone a great parent? Is it a matter of knowledge, common sense, or endless patience? Is it a certain style or form of discipline? Does it depend on the right books, the right schools, the right activities? Not necessarily.

After years of observing parents in their natural habitat, I have had some interesting revelations: Great parents come from all walks of life. Whether you are a pro athlete, a single parent struggling to make ends meet, a stay-at-home parent or the CEO of a major corporation, you have the qualities to become a great parent.

What Makes a Great Parent Great?

As I talked to, observed, and interacted with scores of parents throughout my life, I noticed some characteristics that were common to them all, in one way or another:

First, a great parent has an open heart. This seems obvious, doesn’t it? An open heart means that you can accept the fact that your child’s interests, talents, and capabilities lie in areas completely different from your own. It means that your child can feel comfortable telling you s/he doesn’t really want to play tennis, no matter how much tennis means to you.

Second, a great parent a clear set of values. You should have a solid belief system that serves as a framework for your life.  Transmit those ethics to your children. For example, the simple phrase “we treat others with respect, because…” can cover a multitude of situations, from taking others’ toys to inappropriate tweeting.

Third, you have a well-thought-out discipline plan. You and your co-parent have a set of boundaries and consequences, and you both feel comfortable with them. If someone else is providing childcare for you, be sure that their discipline style is compatible with yours.

Many parents struggle with this one: Consistency. Consistency applies to routines as well as discipline. Your children need a consistent routine. For younger children, bedtimes and nap times follow a regular schedule; curfews for teenagers are consistent and reasonably enforced. Also, consequences should be predictable (If I leave my bike out in the driveway, I won’t be allowed to ride it tomorrow). Predictable outcomes make your child feel more secure.

Finally, you must have a sense of humor. I was lecturing my teenaged daughters about their misbehavior one evening. While I presided over the dinner table at our favorite taco stand, my eldest teenager was playing with a packet of taco sauce. Just as I made a particularly stern proclamation,  the packet of sauce exploded into my face and all over my shirt. It was classic! My girls and I still fall out laughing over that episode. I must have looked ridiculous, and not just because of the sauce!

There’s a popular meme going around that says something like, “no matter how big you are, when a 2-year-old hands you a toy telephone, you answer it.” You have it in you to be a great parent, and all you really need to do now is follow your best instincts.

God Bless You,