How To Write A Family Manifesto: The Home Rules Contract You Need To Have
Discover how to write the perfect home rules contract every family needs. Called a family manifesto, this improves bonding and harmony.
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A home rules contract creates greater harmony and unity within the family as it reminds each member of what they expect from themselves and from each other.
If you’ve never heard of a family manifesto or even of family home rules contract, then you’re in for a treat.
We just recently went through the process of creating one and must say that we found it quite enlightening.
It wasn’t so hard as we initially assumed it would be and we also learned that we had a lot more in common with each other than we initially thought (easy to forget in the day-to-day aspects of family life).
We highly recommend it, especially if you feel that your family could do with a bit more closeness and bonding.
If there’s a fair bit of fighting going on or misunderstanding happening, then this is the process for you.
What is a family manifesto
We talked about manifestos in a previous post and how important they are to clarifying our vision for ourselves.
A family manifesto is the same except that it encompasses the entire family. Basically, it shows the values we believe in, how we expect each other to act and be treated, how we raise our children (if we have them), what we do when we’re together, how we celebrate success and our failures.
In short, a family manifesto is an expression of unity
So, if you find that your family seem to be drifting apart or there are far too many fights and arguments happening for your peace of mind, why not consider creating a family manifesto?
It doesn’t have to be overly complicated.
If you’d like some examples or you’re not at all creative and would just like to buy a ready-to-display work of art, you can take a look at Amanda Blake Soule’s The Creative Family Manifesto, Stupell’s Autumn Colours Wall Plaque, Newclew’s Family Rules Decal or our very own Family Manifesto.
How to write a family manifesto
There are five steps to writing an effective family manifesto.
You first have to make a commitment that you will be creating a manifesto for the entire family.
Remember that a manifesto is a set of guidance that is there to show each member of a family what you, as a unit, stand for.
It’s not a number of binding rules that you force other members of the family to adhere to.
That kind of defeats the point.
After that, you decide on the questions you want your manifesto to answer, you write your answers down, talk about any similarities or differences in a respectful manner and then choose which answers will make it to the final document (in case you have too many and need to cut back or you have two opposing beliefs).
Finally, you need to look at your display options (because you do need to display it where every family member can see it every day) and then review and revise it regularly.
Home rules contract tip #1: Make a commitment
Our first home rules contract is to decide as a family to create a vision for you as a unit.
This will hold much more weight when everybody chips in. If your kids are too young to weigh in, then don’t worry. Write down your ideas, which encompass how you expect yourself to treat your children and how you expect them to act in return.
For example, if a clean and organised home is essential to you, then put it down in your list as an important part of harmonious family life.
Family manifestos aren’t set in stone.
You need to regularly review and revise them to make sure that they still reflect your family values. When your children are older, they will most likely want to weigh in and this will make your manifesto more inclusive and therefore, more valuable.
Home rules contract tip #2: Choose your questions
Each family will have different priorities. You’ll need to decide what these are for you. In our case, we answered the following questions (they’re in no particular order):
- What values are important to our family?
- What do we believe in?
- What are our favourite family activities?
- How do we expect to be treated?
- How do we expect each other to act?
- How and what do we celebrate?
- What do we love to do together?
Home rules contract tip #3: Write your answers down
Some people prefer to bounce ideas while one person writes everything down, sort of like taking meeting minutes.
What we did in our family when we were writing our manifesto was that one person asked the questions and then we each wrote our answers in a journal.
We didn’t ask the wee man for his input as he’s only 2 and not really interested in anything like this yet (but with the way things are going, we expect he’ll be making corrections soon enough).
Home rules contract tip #4: Talk to each other
Revel in the similarities. Expect the differences.
Even within a strong family unity, you will each have different ideas of what makes things work, how family members should act and what the important things are.
Now is your chance to have a thoughtful and respectful discussion with everyone.
As we keep saying, compromise is key. Discuss your different values and see where they meet.
Then choose the ones that make the cut.
Home rules contract tip #5: Choose the ones that make the cut
Don’t forget that democracy works really well when each member is treated with respect and each voice is given equal weight…
even especially in small groups like a family.
After you talk your differences out and settle on what you will add in the final document, write your answers on a fresh piece of paper.
You should have a minimum of 10 favourite ideas that you can display.
Home rules contract tip #6: Display It
You have two basic options here.
You can DIY it or get a professional to make a work of art you can display prominently in your home.
If you’re into arts and crafts, you can pull out the poster card, glitter glue, old magazines and any other crafting supply you have and start bringing your manifesto to life.
Or, you can go digital and use Canva or PicMonkey. Or, you could go for the new kid on the block, Pixelied. It’s so simple to use and you have access to great images while creating your own. We love it and highly recommend!
We used PicMonkey to come up with a great way to display our family manifesto.
We think it came out quite well, don’t you?
If you’d prefer to get a professional to do this for you, you have several options.
You can order a wall art from Chatterboxwalls, which allows you to personalise the colour, content and whether or not you want this framed.
Or if you prefer to just have a digital file and then print it yourself, why not check out our Semi-Customised Family Manifesto (you also have the option for a fully customised family manifesto – email us for more details)?
Home rules contract tip #7: Review and Revise
Finally, it would be a good idea to regularly review and revise your family manifesto.
When something major happens (you give birth for example, or your previously non-verbal children are now chattering like magpies and have strong opinions on how the family should be), it is very important that your manifesto reflects these changes.
That way, everyone feels like they have a voice and that that voice is valued.
This is especially important when you have children.
It’s sometimes so easy for parents to make the decisions for everyone and to forget that what they think is true isn’t necessarily shared by their kids. For a blissful home, it is imperative that you consider the opinions of your tiniest (verbal) members.
Keep checking and refining until you have a document that accurately captures what your entire family values.
Final Thoughts on family manifestos
And there you have it: the blueprint to a home rules contract that can do wonders in bringing each family member closer together.
Do you have a family manifesto? Have you gone through this process? If so, drop us a comment below and tell us what you did and how you’re doing now. We’d love to hear from you.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been completely revamped and updated for relevance and comprehensiveness.
Thank you very much for your post. It is a timely article for me. We have two teenagers in the house. My wife and I always talk about having some rules in the house, but we have never written down anything.
I like your idea of writing a family manifesto. I write down the five steps now. We are going to discuss this on our dinner today. I particularly like your idea of displaying the manifesto in a place where every family member can see it every day.
I also plan to review and revise our manifesto weekly.
It is kind of you sharing this very useful tips with us.
You’re welcome, Anthony.
The thing with having it written down and then displayed prominently is that, when necessary, you just have to point at it to remind someone of the family rules. You won’t be the nagging parent as you’re all bound by the same rules. This is why it’s especially important to get the children’s input too – especially teenagers, who now have their own likes and dislikes. 🙂
What a BRILLIANT idea for fostering unity in a family. Every family has its arguments as everyone is coming from a different perspective. However, a family is a FAMILY. A unit that should be striving for common goals and ideals in order to get along and make things work.
When children of the appropriate age are allowed to help create a manifesto then they will be more likely to follow the guidelines and it will help parents, too, to understand where each child is coming from. I think this would truly reduce tensions in any family! You don’t even need fancy software, as you pointed out – a bit of DIY art and there you go!
Personally, I would have this posted in a prominent place like the refrigerator. I can also see that as the family ages and/or grows that the manifesto should be updated as needed. Thank you for sharing with us such an important tool for family unity!
That’s spot on!. Thank you for commenting. 🙂
This is a very insightful post! I worked as a teaching assistant for a few years and became slightly addicted to all the written rules. I haven’t got children yet, but I’ve always thought long and hard about what kind of environment I wanted them to be raised in – and it definitely involved a lot of unnegotiable rules. But this article has made me realise that things can be done better – by creating a family manifesto, where the entire family decides how they want the family to be like. What a fantastic idea! Thank you for this! 🙂
You’re welcome. Glad you liked it. 🙂
Never heard of Family Manifesto, but a nice idea, which every home should have. you have given some guidelines which are really helpful.
Since a new concept to me, but still will try to incorporate it in my home.
Hi Jivita, thank you for your very nice comment. It’s not common knowledge, which is a shame as it’s very effective. Do let us know if you try it and if there’s anything we can do to help. 🙂
This is a wonderful article. Thanks for sharing your ideas and experience on how to create a perfect family relationship. I believe in the power of democracy. Everyone’s voice is equally important no matter how small or big. Having a perfect communication results in a perfect relationship. I will take some of your ideas with me and apply them to connect with my family members even more.
That’s a great way of putting it – the power of democracy. 🙂 Let us know how you get on with the family manifesto. It’s done wonders for us.