Top 10 Essential Family Values

Post written by Sherri Kruger. Follow me on Twitter.

How do you define family values? In our home family values are rules or ideals that, as a family, we agree to live by and stay true to. The list of essential family values would be a mile long no doubt and the top 10 lists for each family would be as unique as the one that came up with it.

Having strong well defined family values helps solidify the foundation for a strong, tight knit family. When cultivated long enough this closeness provides a soft place to fall when life doesn’t go according to plan.  Strong and consistent family values are important in building trust and confidence in each family member.

Here are my top 10 essential family values.

1. Belonging. It is important that each member of my family feel that they are loved, that they belong and that they matter. Being a cohesive family could mean that you spend every spare minute together doing family activities but keep in mind that everyone is different. Creating a strong family unit is great but each person should be allowed the space and freedom to explore the activities they think they may enjoy. People are more courageous and more willing to take chances if they know they have a safe place to come back to when things don’t quite work out. Coming together for special occasions and holidays and just spending time together as a family is what helps build that sense of belonging.

2. Flexibility. I’m all for order, schedules and structure in my family to help maintain some level of sanity. But too much structure and the unwillingness to give a little can result in a lot of unhappiness and resentment. The more flexibility you have in decision making, for example, the happier your family will be for it. Imagine one member of the family always thinking they are right and enforcing their way of doing things. This certainly wouldn’t lead to much happiness within the family unit.

3. Respect. This is a bit more difficult to define. For my family, to respect each other is to take feelings, thoughts, needs, and preferences in to account when making decisions. It also means acknowledging and valuing everyone’s thoughts, feelings and contributions to the family as a whole.

Respect is indeed earned and there is a very fine line between it and fear. The only way to earn and keep someone’s respect is to first show them respect yourself. Respect as an important family value will extend out of the home and into school, work or other social settings.

4. Honesty. This is the foundation of any relationships that are meant to last. Mother-daughter, husband-wife, sister-brother. Without honesty a deeper connection will not form and certainly won’t last. Encourage honesty by practicing understanding and respect when someone tells you of their wrong doings. If we lose it and get angry when we’re told what has happened the other person will be more likely to hide it from you next time simply to avoid the disrespect.

5. Forgiveness. Forgiving people who have wronged you is an important choice to make. Yes, forgiveness is a choice. It is not some feeling that randomly washes over you when you feel the other person has “suffered” enough. This can be tough since a lot of us tend to equate forgiveness with saying what you did was okay. They are not the same thing. Holding a grudge, is not conducive to a close family with mutual respect.

Keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes, we all occasionally say things we wish we hadn’t and non of us are perfect. Refer to value 3 communication. Get issues out in the open, gain some understanding and move on. Life is too short.

6. Generosity. Giving without thinking “what’s in it for me” is an important value for anyone wanting to be a responsible, contributing member to society. Through generosity we build empathy since we tend to think more about what people want or need. Being generous doesn’t mean simply handing over money to someone in need. It can also include giving your time, love, attention or even some of your possessions.

7. Curiosity. Children have a natural curiosity. If you’ve ever watched a toddler even for a couple of minutes you’d see that quality shine through. For some that curiosity wanes. I think it’s important to encourage and push our kids and even ourselves to be curious about things. Rarely should we ever just take someone’s word for it.  How do we spark our curiosity? Ask questions. Lots of them. Read about a topic you know very little about and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. Critical thinking is an important skill that can be learned and developed through exploring your own curiosity.

8. Communication. Communication is as much an art as it is a science. A failure to communicate will likely lead to unhappiness and misunderstandings. Small issues grow into larger ones and when they eventually boil to the surface it’s unlikely they will be resolved calmly. Communication is a lot more than simply speaking your mind. In addition to spoken words, communication also extends to tone, volume, expression, eye contact, body language and effective listening.

I would argue that this is the most important value for families to have. When people feel they can talk openly about anything – hopes, dreams, fears, successes or failures – all without judgment, it’s encouraging and strengthens the bond.

9. Responsibility. We’d all like to be considered responsible people. Some of us are and some of us are decidedly less so. Responsibility is something that is learned. As a child you may have been shown how to put your toys away after playing, how to tidy your room or how and when to feed the dog. This sense of responsibility extends well into adulthood. An adult who has an intrinsic sense of responsibility doesn’t require a lot of prodding to show up to work on time, return phone calls or meet deadlines. Setting out individual responsibilities for family members works to instill this quality in everyone.

10. Traditions. This is by far the most fun for me. I think traditions are what make a family unique, they draw people together and create a sense of belonging for everyone. Traditions don’t need to be expensive, elaborate or a lot of work. It can be something as simple as a lazy Saturday morning sipping coffee and chatting or an annual fondue dinner to ring in the new year. If you don’t currently have traditions in your family, create them! All traditions started with one person why not let your family traditions start with you? Get creative and have fun.

So those are my top 10 family values. Of course there are others I’ll be incorporating but these are the most important to me.

Do we have many in common? What is in your top 10?

127 Responses to “Top 10 Essential Family Values”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. These are good values for any family, or for that matter any person. No way I could disagree with any of these – you nailed it!

  2. Emily Geizer says:

    This is a great list, Sherri!

    Defining family values is an important first step. The next step, which is significantly more challenging, is instilling these values into our everyday parenting.

    For example, respect. It’s easy to add respect to a list of family values, but actually showing respect to toddlers, for example, is a very subtle skill. And, it is often over-looked or undervalued.

    Showing respect to toddlers is not accomplished by overpraising nor deferring your authority. It’s in the way parents give them space to become independent. It’s in the way parents speak to them person-to-peson (authoritative), rather than controlling and restrictive (authoritarian).

    It’s a mindful approach to parenting. Thanks for tackling this challenging topic.

  3. It was very endearing to read your top 10, and a wonderful reminder of what is important.

  4. Thank you for your positive feedback, I’m glad you guys liked it.

    Emily – I agree with you that showing toddlers respect isn’t something that comes natural to most of us, after all we are the parents right? We’re in control. Sometimes the frustration levels seem to rise and we forget that these precious little people are indeed precious little people deserving of our compassion, patience, and respect. Great point thank you!

  5. Brian says:

    Thank you Sherri for that post and your site. Communication has been the key for my wife and I and I’d say Responsibility has really made a difference with our six year old. She’s even trying to teach her two year old brother how to put away his toys. To varying degrees of success :) Thanks again.

  6. Terrah says:

    Love this post and everything it stands for. It has inspired me to sit down with my family and make an essential family value list.

    New follower ~ Terrah

  7. Mummy Zen says:

    Such a great list of family values! I especially like #7 and your suggestion that we encourage ourselves to be ever curious, as well as our kids.
    #10 – traditions are definitely a fun part of being a family and can help form special, memorable times spent together.

    I think often our family values are unspoken and yet they are so important. It’s good to think of what our own values are and perhaps to discuss with our spouse.

  8. Values are essential to living a happy and meaningful life. Over the years I’ve taught many kids basic values such as those listed above during yoga classes. For ways in which yoga helps to reinforce these values visit

  9. Hi Sherri -

    I really enjoyed this post.

    My family is very close. My wife and I work together, at home and on the road. And now our kids are homeschooled – all four of them!

    I can’t say that we have a formal set of values – maybe we should.

    As I read your post one value came to my mind that you didn’t mention directly, but implied several times. That value (if I can call it that) is the sense of safety. We try to make our family a refuge. You won’t be judged here. You will be loved. And you may hear honest opinions that you don’t like. But you are free to walk away. Our family is not a prison. We do not impose anything. In my opinion, that is the ultimate form of respect.

    When I grew up, I did not always feel that it was OK to have certain opinions. My parents views about the world limited the opinions that I could hold, at least publicly, or risk being chastised. The implication was always there that love was not unconditional. You had a duty to follow the way of the family, and that may mean standing for family principles that you did not honestly share, whether in religious or political views, or in terms of whose side to take in a conflict with outsiders. There was a tribal, clannishness to the whole thing.

    In my family today, as a parent, I make sure that my kids understand that I love them, not their views or opinions. I also make sure that my kids understand that I don’t just love them because they are my kids. Their personal viewpoint is part of their uniqueness, and it is that uniqueness that I treasure.

    I also am not afraid to disagree with them. In other words, we try to be honest and real with each other. We try not to be threatened by our differences, because those differences are not a threat to the cohesiveness of the family itself.

    Our family is held together by LOVE. That’s it. And everythng that grows out of love.

    At least, this is what we try to do. I guess there are some family values in there. :-)

    Thanks for a great post!

    All the best,


  10. Zengirl says:


    I like most of the values. Although, I think curiosity should be a personal value and not a family value, as too much curiosity as an adult, between family can lead to problems. How about understanding as a value instead?

  11. Sudeep says:

    Thanks for the wonderful post on Family values. I love all the points, but my favorite would be respect …Respect ads a lot to the family . It is not just respect to elders , but even respect to each and every member of the family.

  12. Gina says:

    Great article. I hadn’t thought about a couple of these. In our family, our “essential” values include respect, honesty, forgiveness, gratitude & generosity.

    We’re going through some tough lessons with our values right now as our oldest is dealing with bullies at school. We (& the teacher) are working with him on foregiveness (giving people another chance – or two), respect (of our own feelings & the right to have them), and understanding (putting yourself in the other person’s shoes). And…respect for the other children even if they’re not friends. Tough lessons for a kindergartener.

    But having consistent values and talking about them often, with importance, has really made a difference for us.

  13. Thank you, these are great reminders to keep us focused on the right things.

  14. These are really great!! Did you ever hear that families who eat together stick together? A great way to get these ideas across is over dinner conversation… or if you’re not in LA or NYC,

  15. Lisa Vickery says:

    I love your post. I heard this week about forming a family mission statement. I can see how a list of values can work hand and hand with a mission statement. I love what you wrote about communication. I agree about its importance.

  16. This is a fantastic post! I love it so much that I’m going to print it out so that my family & I can read it together & have a discussion about it during our family meeting this morning. Thank you so much for this thoughtful essay.

  17. gegeen says:

    hi . i m Gegeen from Mongolia.
    i liked that post as well. i really miss a beat for my family communication, and i do not follow all these your 10 values/
    i hurted my parents many times, as soon as i argued with my parents, i cry.
    In particular, i do not try to accept my fault, thats why we have a bad argument. i would follow these your family values strongly. i hope it can help my family.
    thanks dear.

  18. Simon B Manyika says:

    I am much interested with your views as are much useful in studying Social Ethic!
    i’m at st augustine university of Tanzania

  19. cyril says:

    Hi. I am doing my research on top 3 values acquired by a child from his/her parents can I ask for help?Have you ever read a research regarding the top three values that children acquired from their parents?if you have can you send me please the title and the website.Ireally need it for my related literature. thanks!

  20. Charles Abu says:

    I have always felt someone should redefine family values for this generation as we seem lost like a ship adrift at sea. Thank you for the post.

  21. Cristine Armendariz says:

    Excellent post. It is sad that many of us have forgotten about these essential values.

  22. Leane says:

    I would say trust is another essential value. Other than that you list really helped me. Thanks! :)

  23. moen says:

    thank you for making this it really helps me a lot on my exam

  24. i loved your post , all list is wonderful , good by.

  25. constanza says:

    excelent article! I think it is absolutely right.

  26. Makonnen says:

    Thank you for the wonderful lesson that you are trying to teach the true meaning of FAMILY VALUES. I am very much touched by your thinking of sharing to others what you know. I found it very useful and important and immediately forwarded the link to my children.

    May Allah bless you

  27. Kanute Dindi says:

    Thanks a lot for your post on family values. I really enjoyed every bit of the ten values listed. I had to share with family and friends too. Keep up on this educative and informative topical issues. Thanks


  28. what is this says:

    what are you talking about?

  29. San Juanita Hernandez says:

    Great List! Family is family, and you have to stick together, and love one another, no matter what! My family is wacky (all families are) and there’s nothing I look forward to the most than packing up to the park for a random picnic, or planting trees on Arbor Day. I was born on Labor day, (funny, huh? Mum went in labor on Labor day!) so I’m biased to where I adore it (and the time off from school!) Don’t neglect the LGBT community, can you revise “Honesty” so that husband-husbands’ and wife-wives’ all over feel honest :P Once again, great list(:
    Totally Love This,
    San Juanita Hernandez

  30. suar says:


  31. suar says:


  32. Ester says:

    algumas familias tem que ler isso eu li e adorei e fiz um trabalho sobre familia e tirei nota 10 so por que eu vi esse saite incrivel eu achei espero que vc tamben gosti

  33. Veronika Nansen says:

    I think this is a great website .It really inspired me to do a speech on so I want to say thank-you to the Zen family. Thanks a lot guys Cheers.
    Yours Faithfully
    Miss Veronika Nansen

  34. Frank Sellers says:

    These are great values for the family or workplace or anyplace else. It’s a shame radical Christians have co-opted the term as a euphamism for intolerance and prejudice. I’m glad there was no holy rolling in these definitions. Good job!

  35. Renita says:

    I enjoyed the list of values. However, prayer or religious value was not on the list. Where is the higher power?

  36. Bryan says:

    You pretty much hit the nail on the head with this list. I seldom see these values anymore. It’s sad.

  37. tanishka paintal says:

    intersting and nice values……………………

  38. mele says:

    it is very nice to teach our owen families these values

  39. masoom agarwal says:

    Hi sherri
    I would like to thank u for such a wonderful post. I usually hesitate while talking to my cousins, I feel this post would definitely help me …thanks a lot.

  40. I disagree with number 2. If you always change plans, children won’t learn stability!

  41. anon says:

    :( My family doesn’t have any of these family values. ;(

  42. Arjun says:

    Thank you for the wonderful lesson

  43. biodun says:


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  45. Drugstore says:

    Good answers in return of this issue with firm arguments and describing the whole thing
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  46. analiza penaflor says:

    i agree and hopefully all the familys in the world,will embraced the family values…..

  47. Math says:

    Your post take too long to read , daaaaaaaamn , this is really difficult to work on it .

    The EF students .

  48. lynn says:

    fantastic reminders…wish that families all over the world would learn to live with God at the center and everything will ran out smoothly.

  49. Charles says:

    I agree with your top 10 values completely. I sure wish my family had these values. They fail pretty miserably and there is nothing I can really do about it. I mean, I’m not try to change anyone, but when I’m the only struggling and work hard in life just to survive in a tough economy with health issues and they sit around their nice home in the high end of town and constantly argue, hurt each other and my son lives with my mother who pays for his Heroin, I start to wonder how they can do that against morals and logic. I sure wish I had a family that intentionally practiced those 10 family values because I feel sickened and lonely without a healthy family life. It saddens and depresses me occasionally in a severe way. Can some healthy family adopt me please, I’m hard working and have an excellent moral compass. I keep it polished as best I can.

  50. it was help my lecture 4 college alot.thx a lot the way iam from iran and an english univercity student.

  51. DR.MD. FAZLUR RAHMAN says:

    It is a great site, came to know a lot . Respect to the elders and love to the youngers……………………….be the best way to have a sweet and happy family”

  52. andreas says:

    Thanks very much for the top ten family values. i love them

  53. Kristin says:

    I really loved this list. If my children internalized these values and drew upon them throughout their life, I would be thrilled. I might add integrity and put service along side genorosity to make it a bit more concrete.

  54. Nuno says:

    Hi sherry, fantastic, I was lost in a lot of ideas in my head, trying to connect them to define the true values ​​that I wanted to have as a reference. Great definition you gave me. thank you for your generosity. I could see what the problem was within my family, COMMUNICATION. thank you

    Nuno & Family

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  59. Gabriella says:

    These are so cute! Imagine a world where every family lived by these values- no corruption whatsoever. :D thanks for sharing.

  60. Piseth Kham says:

    Thank you for this great post. I am blessed to read it as I am reviewing my personal, family, and organizational core values.

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  65. Dilnoza says:

    thanks for all!

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  67. MORANG'A says:

    wow| in deed u’v the best family values….

    may please tell us whether religion contributes to this….. if so, how?

  68. jeslyn sim says:

    good post!but too many words

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  1. [...] 6. For our families, Zen Family Habits shares an insightful list that is worth your time. Enjoy “Top 10 Essential Family Values.” [...]

  2. [...] 8, 2010 by c Over at zenfamilyhabits, you can get ten family values that we should all practice.  I struggle with [...]

  3. [...] Top 10 Essential Family Values – Sherri Kruger @ Zen Family Habits [...]

  4. [...] [28] [...]

  5. [...] Kruger lists on the blog Zen Family Habits what she considers to be a more reasonable set of family values than those prescribed by [...]

  6. [...] you will have the urge to have a family, slow down your fast paced life, and embrace more family values and responsibilities. And for many men, this is a major turning point in life. There are no [...]

  7. [...] should always pay great attention to the value of family.  Florman, Hollender, and also the example of my father can show the benefits of living life to [...]

  8. [...] said,” Marriage is good when there is a shared vision between a husband, wife and children.. The family values and mission statement should be a cornerstone in all the [...]

  9. [...] could be the Top 10 Essential Family Values of the Zen Family, or something simpler like ”Live, Love, Learn, Laugh.” that Lykki [...]

  10. [...] someone else’s list as a starting place if you need help. Here are some great starter lists: Zen Habits, Family Life, Bruce Feiler (check page 10).3. Think about the times in your life when you have been [...]

  11. [...] It is important that each member of my family feel that they are loved, that they belong and that they matter. Creating a strong family unit is great but each person should be allowed the space and freedom to explore the activities they think they may enjoy. Coming together for special occasions and holidays and just spending time together as a family is what helps build that sense of belonging. (source) [...]

  12. [...] also writes of family responsibility and family values as they pertain to this individualism within society. Family responsibility is sometimes thrust [...]

  13. [...] also writes of family responsibility and family values as they pertain to this individualism within society. Family responsibility is sometimes thrust [...]

  14. [...] Con base en un artículo de Sherri Kruger, vía zenfamilyhabits [...]

  15. [...] He likewise creates of household duty and household values as they relate to this character within society. Household duty is in some cases thrust after [...]

  16. [...] young and the not-so-young alike because it expresses the abiding love that is the foundation of a strong family unit, says [...]

  17. [...] young and the not-so-young alike because it expresses the abiding love that is the foundation of a strong family unit, says [...]

  18. [...] willingness to forgive others is connected to generosity of spirit, empathy is involved. Generosity in our judgment of others, generosity of time, compassion and [...]

  19. [...] Top 10 essential family values | zen family habits This is a great list, sherri! defining family values is an important first step. the next step, which is significantly more challenging, is instilling these values. [...]

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