Joanna Goddard, Toby and Anton

A couple years ago, we were staying at a friend’s house, and I spotted The Secrets of Happy Families on a bookshelf. Flipping through it, I saw a chapter about figuring out your family’s core values. At first, I thought it might be cheesy or over the top. But it was surprisingly enlightening…

After reading the list of potential phrases to choose from, I realized that (of course) families may have different priorities or goals — being brave or athletic may be huge in one family, being spiritual and hardworking could be very important in another, or being creative and innovative might be key.

What Are Your Five Basic Family Values?

Parenting is not easy — but one thing I’ve always felt good about is encouraging our boys to be friendly and kind to others. Before we go to friends’ houses, we’ll talk about how everyone needs to be included, even the littlest kids. It’s a HUGE rule in our family — no one should feel left out or made fun of. (I liked this article about teaching kids to be “includers.”) Funnily enough, now that I’m thinking about it, we even chose Toby’s name simply because it sounded friendly.

Another trait we’re working on is “service.” I’m learning a lot from my friend Linsey, for whom service is clearly an important one. She is always helping others in big ways (like setting up apartments for refugee families) and small ways (like supporting a friend during a hard time). When my brother-in-law died two years ago, I immediately booked a flight to San Francisco for the next morning. As I opened our front door to head out at 6 a.m., I spotted a brown lunch bag on the doorstep. Inside were homemade brownies and fresh clementines for me to enjoy on the flight. I was so moved by the gesture, I started weeping in the hallway. What thoughtfulness! And what an inspiring way to move through the world. (I’d love to do more of these things with Toby and Anton.)

What about you? What would you say are a few of your — or your family’s — core values? Are they different from the values your family had growing up? I’d also love to add curiosity, optimism and not-waking-up-so-early to our list. (I think we have gallantry covered;)

P.S. Raising race-conscious children, and how would you describe yourself in five words?