Values and norms – how understanding these two words can transform your family

by | Jan 14, 2018 | Education, Personal growth | 0 comments

Have your kids ever asked why they should do certain things a certain way? Have you ever found yourself answering them, that this is just the way everyone does it?
Or did you ever meet a big amount of rules – at your church, workplace or in your own childhood – asking yourself what meaning they actually have.

Have you ever felt narrowed and uncomfortable by them?


 Or are you part of those people that sometimes ask “why should I do it that way” and this question is considered “rebellion” even if you’re truly wondering why on earth you should do it that way? Or maybe you have considered your child rebellious and difficult because it questions every rule in your home?

I have good news for you:
The understanding of these two little words “values and norms” have the amazing power to help you handle all of these above situations.

Before we take a look at what this knowledge can do for you, let’s look at the meaning of the word “value”, then let’s look at the meaning of the word “norm”.

Here’s a sample of values dear to our family, accompanied by a norm which belongs to each sample:

  • Unity as a family
    •  We treat each other with respect and dignity.
    •  No exclusion of siblings when playing.
  • A steady faith in God
    • We take a time every morning to hear a word for the day and pray.
  • Uprightness
    • We stand for what we do and apologize when we did something wrong.
  • Openness for other cultures
    • We teach our children that there are people who eat differently think differently and do things differently than we do – and that this is something valuable, important and precious.
  • Hospitality
    • We receive guests with an openness towards them.
  • Honesty
    • We don’t lie.
  • To be a nurturing place where everyone can flourish
    • We accept each other the way we are, with all the differences in personality.

Norms are the


rules set in place

expectation of a certain behavior

to achieve core values.

I think it is of utmost importance to be aware of our norms and values. Here’s why:

It gives room for freedom and creativity in our task to raise our children:

It helps us to find solutions, adapted to our children’s individual needs.

As I said above, being aware of our core values, we can adapt the norms belonging to them.
An example:
Unity as a family and uprightness are very important values to us.

Therefore, we have several norms we apply and are pretty strict about them:
We don’t tolerate any meanness between siblings nor any attempts to exclude one another.  When we perceive some small start of anything like that, we tell our children: In our family, we don’t do that.  We don’t want to see that – neither you doing it among siblings, nor any of our children behaving that way to any child, anywhere.
On the contrary, there have been situations at our dinner table where a kid didn’t want to finish its plate. We’ve then told that child, that in order to get any dessert, the plate has to be empty. Now in that situation, when a sibling does offer to finish the others plate – we encourage that, simply because our value of unity is much higher than the value “eating manners”.

With that background of our values we can do things differently, knowing exactly what we do and the reason why we do it. After all, it is a norm (at least very much here, where we live) to finish ones plate before getting any dessert. Everyone does that. On the contrary, it is as normal, that siblings do fight, that children in a group are (at least) a little mean to each other… they are simply children, right?

This example goes for every action we take in our daily life with our children.

It makes our whole world much wider

My years in Bolivia and the months in other countries have helped me a lot in this process.
Getting in touch with local people has made me see, that they do many things very differently.
I loved to hang out with my dear Bolivian friends, learning their language, eating their food, observing how they were doing things.
There I learned something:

“The way we do it in our country, our culture, the way we think and what we perceive as “normal”  –  can be very different in other places . And they too, look at their way as “normal”.

One day, the local facebook group of moms, which I am part of since I am a Mom, talked about how they didn’t like to see mothers with small children out on that recent summer-event we had one evening  in our small city nearby.  “Children should sleep at 8pm and not be outside at an event”.
I didn’t participate in that conversation. Not because I had been at the event with my children. However, I knew very well that there are plenty of cultures where life happens in the evenings, where no child goes to bed at 8pm.
When I was in Chile, for example, the motto late in the evening (around midnight) often was “tomamos un thé..” (let’s take a tea). Of course, “thé” was not just tea, but rather a whole menu of cold supper. And of course that was a family matter, together with all the children. At the same time, life in the morning didn’t start before 9am. You could never imagine that here in central Europe.

But many times, we live by our norms. We try to raise our children by norms we learned from our own upbringing, or by the norms we see applied in our culture. For some children, these norms are totally alright, they give them security and they are perfectly able to adjust. However, there are plenty of things where other cultures have more insight than we do, have different ways to do things – many times these ways could work perfectly (and even better, making things easier, with more positive results) in our culture, with our children too… but because we don’t know that we are free to adjust our norms if we stick with our values, we miss great ways of doing things.

When you are aware of your values you can choose a different way of implementing them. You can choose to do it differently than the others around you… you can make a difference and this in a beautiful way.

It helps us to focus and to take decisions:
Knowing what our values as a family are, it is so much easier to take decisions based on what these values are, instead of what other people around us are doing or saying.

As an example, we decided to enroll our children in a private school.
In our family and circle of friends, no one does that. The general thinking is that “public schools are pretty good here in Switzerland, so why spend time and money to send your kids to a private school – with the danger that they might be outsiders in the village due to that? No way.”

Therefore, listening to friends and family, we wouldn’t have taken that decision.
But we still did.

Because we know that in that private school, the whole family is part of the school. They told us: “By welcoming your child, we are welcoming you as a family”. Secondly, it is a Christian school – open for everyone, but with Christian values that are implemented on a daily basis in a child’s life.
Thirdly, they have small classes of about ten students, allowing each student to flourish and become the best they can be – pretty close to our values!
And that was the reason why we decided to enroll our children in that school. Despite of the additional time and money it requires.
And we love it. Our oldest one loves it.

And last but not least:

It enables us to be the successful parents no child rearing book can ever enable us to be:

In this article I was saying how we never take a book and apply it into the lives of our children by the letter. We take the idea behind it, and implement it – adapted to our family values and to the child’s unique personality.

In other words, we take the good insights out of it, compare them with our values and find norms that fit into our family.
This, instead of taking the norms from the book, applying them to our children, without having understood the values behind them.

This makes a huge difference.
Because by applying them that way, our thinking, our imagination, our good ideas and our knowledge about the personality of our child are called for. We can find unique ways for our unique child, our family and our own personality as a parent.
As a result we have taken care of the transmission of our values, and the norms are adapted to our children, our family.

As you see, knowing your values can bring freedom and an easiness into your family.
It makes our whole world much wider, gives possibilities, room for creativity.
It helps you to focus and take wise decisions.

Values and norms. These two little words sound pretty boring and intellectual.

However, the amazing thing about this whole topic of values and norms is this. When you are aware of your core values, you can adapt the norms. The norms become the guidelines to achieve the core values. Isn’t this better than just having norms, without a reason behind them?

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