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Value Creation Blog

5 Reasons You Need A Family Constitution

Posted by Josh Patrick

rule-bookI keep reading about the twenties being a lost decade. I think this is a mistake both for parents and children. I’ve seen that often this lost decade comes as a result of not having clear expectations within the family. Here are some things you might want to consider:

The twenties are not a time for putting your life on hold.

This is probably a funny way to start a post on a family constitution. At the same time it’s important that you think about your children who are either in their twenties or on their way there.

The media would have you believe that it’s OK for your children to use the decade of twenties as a time to experiment. To a point, that’s OK. At the same time if your children spend ten years experimenting and you support it, you may be allowing your children to guarantee they won’t have the same opportunities you’ve had. The world won’t wait for them to figure it out. That’s what your late teens are early twenties are for. My observation has been that boomeranging children who are over twenty-five years old puts their life in thirties and beyond at risk.

We have too many entitled children in the world.

A family constitution is all about expectations. If we set expectations that our children are going to act in a responsible manner we have a chance of beating the entitled generation. I want my children to earn their way in the world. I don’t have any problem with helping them. At the same time, I want them to have the benefit of struggling to become successful. It’s the struggle that often helps us become better as people and as members of our community. At least it did for me.

Having rules in your family is important.

Too many times I see families where there might be an idea of rules and they are constantly broken. Having rules is just the first step. Making sure that rules (a constitution) are followed is where the rubber meets the road. If the rules are broken, there have to be consequences. Sometimes those consequences can be painful.

When I was younger I broke some of the rules in my family. I was asked to leave, well not exactly asked, and as a result I had some very painful lessons. I think those lessons helped me become a much more responsible member of society. Without the consequences of my actions, I could have easily become entitled. Instead, I became responsible. Isn’t that what you want for your family?

Your chances for retirement might depend on family expectations.

I have a friend whose retirement probably is not going to happen. They’ve put way too much money in rescuing their child. They never had real rules or a constitution in their family. They had lots of excuses for why things were the way they were. They’ve spent their retirement savings rescuing their child; not once, but several times. Think about the message your sending when you rescue.

If I was in their position I’m not sure I would have the guts to do the right thing. At the same time I know if I didn’t I would have been doing a real disservice to my children. What about you? Are you willing to take the hard step when you need to?

What happens when agreements (constitution) is broken.

This is the really hard part. This is where you need to make the decision for your family. This is where you get to decide whether you’re going to help your children become responsible members of society.

The choice is yours. You can discuss what appropriate rules are with your family. You can set expectations. If you do so, you must inspect to make sure the rules are being followed. You have to make sure others hold you to the same standards that you set for everyone else. This isn’t something that’s just good for the other members of your family. You all have to be willing to hold each other accountable.

What do you think? Do you think it’s worth a shot? I would love to hear your stories. Send me an email and let me know what you think.

Part of having a family constitution is what your children can expect for college costs. We have a special report on controlling college costs. To get this report, click on the button below.

controlling college costs

Topics: cultural change, family, effective communication

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