Family Culture


Clayton Christensen states:  “Most of us have-or had-an idyllic image of what our families would be like.  The children will be well behaved, they’ll adore and respect us, we’ll enjoy spending time together, and they’ll make us proud when they are off in the world without us by their side.

And yet, as any experienced parent will tell you, wishing for that kind of family and actually having that kind of family are two very different things.  One of the most powerful tools to enable us to close the gap between the family we want and the family we get is culture.  We need to understand how it works and be prepared to put in the hard yards to influence how it is shaped.”

One way that we have tried to create our family culture is through our traffic light system of rules.

Traffic Lights Playground Marking | Fun & Active Playgrounds

Red – Unacceptable behaviour that results in a predetermined consequence.  E.g.  Abuse – physical (unwanted touch), verbal (name calling) & emotional (threatening behaviour without words or touch).  

Yellow – Red behaviour that is tolerated only in exceptional circumstances.

Green – Behaviour that is desired, recognized and rewarded.  E.g. polite manners, fulfilling responsibilities (homework, jobs, pets, exercise, music practice etc), acts of kindness. 

“Dr Haim Ginott, a world reknowned child psychologist, suggests that parents think about a system of rules based on three ‘zones’ of behaviour – the green zone, yellow zone and red zone.

The green zone encompasses behaviour that’s sanctioned and desired.  It is the way we want our children to act, so we grant them permission freely.

The yellow zone is misbehaviour that is not sanctioned, but it is tolerated for either of two specific reasons.  The first is leeway for learners and the second is leeway for hard times.  You may not approve of these types of behaviour and you should let your child know this.  But you may go ahead and tolerate it, telling your child you’re doing so because of exceptional circumstance.

The red zone is behaviour that cannot be tolerated no matter what.  This includes activities that are dangerous to the well-being of your child or others.  It also includes behaviour that’s illegal, or behaviour you consider immoral, unethical, or socially unacceptable.

Parents should let the child know what consequence he/she can expect for breaking or following rules.  Consequence for good behaviour can be positive attention, praise, privileges or rewards.  Consequences for misbehaviour might be denial of attention, loss of privileges, or the absence of rewards.  Children respond best if consequences are consistent, fair and related to their misbehaviour”

Excerpt from, “The Heart of Parenting” by Dr John Gottman.

The behaviours in each zone will be unique to each family.  What is important is that the whole family is aware of what those behaviours are and the consequences that will come with each.

In our family, we also have a family goal which we keep fresh in our minds.  We believe our goal represents the result of living our family values (green light behaviour).  We have used our family name to become an acronym of qualities that describe our family values.

Here are some tips for creating your own family culture.