Momentous Institute has five core values that govern the work we do and the decisions that we make: Respect, Stewardship, Innovation, Collaboration, and Hope. These are our core values, our guiding principles.
But what about our families? The clients who see us for therapy, and the families whose children attend our school? They have their own set of family values. We believe in helping them find ways to discover and celebrate theirs.
This is a two-part series. Today we’ll hear from Ivette Lampl, Therapeutic Group Leader with Momentous Institute, and next week we'll hear about how we incorporate family values at Momentous School.
The question I always get when families begin our therapeutic program is, “How can I make my child change? How can I make him more respectful, or more responsible?” I always tell them, “Before we get to that, let’s talk about your family’s values.”
I explain to families that these values should be qualities that no one can take from them. Of course we wish for our children to have good health and a good job, but these values are deeper than that. The values we hear most often from families are respect, love, humility, responsibility, and spirituality.
Kids learn from experience. We can’t just tell our kids to be respectful. We have to model it. I lead the group through an exercise where the families talk about a recent experience that was frustrating for them as a family and then we break it down to see how it aligns with the values we just listed.
I had a family recently with a teenage son. The mom was frustrated that the son kept giving away things that he worked hard for. He had a job, and he bought things, but then he would loan them out and never see them again. The mom thought her son was using poor judgment by continuing to give his things away, when he knew he would probably never get them back.
So I asked her, “What did you say to your son last time he did this?” The mom replied, “I said, ‘You are so dumb. Do you really think your friends are going to give your things back this time? They never do!’”
I repeated it back to her. I just let the words fall and I let her sit with the words: “You are so dumb.” I asked her, “What do you feel when you hear me say this to you?” Then I said, “How does this align with the values that we just talked about?” She recognized immediately that her words were not respectful to her son.
Kids learn from experience. I tell them this again.
We don’t want our families to feel shame or guilt at their actions. We are a strength-based program. We believe that all families have strengths, and we need to build upon those. The parents who come to see us have the best intentions in the world. That’s why they show up with their kids week after week. They hate to see their children suffer, and they sincerely want the best for their children and their family. They have made an extraordinary commitment to their family and we honor that.
So I tell them, “Without meaning to, sometimes we do things that don’t align with our family’s values. How could we have handled this same situation in another way?” We do role playing; I will be the parent, and the mom will play the part of her son. In this example, I said, “It makes me sad that you keep giving away things that you work so hard for. (The parent’s emotion is identified; as self-awareness increases genuine and open communication with others.) Are you sure you want to give that to your friend? If you do, I will be here to support you if it doesn’t work out.”
What was in that message? Support. Respect. Words that sound a lot like the family values we listed at the beginning.
So, back to the question: how can I make your child more respectful? I can’t. But I can help your family find the tools to create an environment of respect, and that, in turn, will make your child more respectful.
Next week we'll talk about family values from a different perspective. My colleague Ashley will talk about how we build these values into the work at Momentous School.