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What is Family Culture? And WHY is It Powerfully Influential on Family Happiness or Misery?

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

You ALREADY have a family culture that is an underlying current carrying you toward family happiness or misery.

Have you ever tried paddling upstream while on a tube that's floating along with the current?

Why would you?

Tubing is an enjoyable activity because you get to sit back, relax, and let the current carry you along without much effort on your part.

You go where the river takes you. And that's okay because there's no place else you're trying to get to which is why you're not paddling upstream.

But what if you had a specific destination in mind?

Or what if you wanted to go upstream?

Tubing would not be the best way to go about it. In fact, it would be a futile approach resulting in a lot of work and wasted effort, and it would be unlikely that you would reach your destination.

What does this have to do with family culture (and what exactly IS family culture anyway)?

Family culture is the underlying current in our family lives -- like the current in a river.

It carries us along. It is the default 'way of being' as a family unit.

Trying to go against family culture or to make changes contrary to it is like trying to paddle upstream on a tube.

It's nearly pointless.


'Culture' has many definitions.

We often think of 'foreign cultures' or 'the arts' as culture.

There's also 'business culture', 'social culture', and 'religious culture'.

But there is another type of culture that is MORE important than them all -- it's family culture.

Family culture eats everything else for breakfast.

What does that mean?

It's an idea we borrowed from Peter Drucker when he said:

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast"

He was referring to the fact that a toxic [business] culture can derail anything [business] management is planning to achieve." All of their strategies or tactics are useless against culture.

'Culture' is the undercurrent of force that drives an organization in a certain direction.

This happens in families, too.

That's why 'culture eats everything else for breakfast'.

Your family culture (especially if it's toxic) will derail any of your plans for change, growth or improvement.

Any new ideas or good habits, routines, systems, or positive changes you want to make will be undermined by a 'bad' or negative family culture.

That's why creating family change is so difficult. Your FAMILY CULTURE will determine what habits, routines, and relationships dominate your daily family life.

Trying to create change in the midst of negative family culture is like trying to paddle upstream in an inner tube using just your hands.

It's hard work and you won't get very far, and as soon as you stop paddling you'll be carried downstream with the current.


We're often not aware of our family culture.

We may think we DON'T have one (but all of us do... more on that in a minute).

It's rarely written out or spoken about (except in intentional families).

But it is ALWAYS a part of your 'way of being' as a family.

Family culture includes:

  • Attitudes

  • Actions

  • Reactions

  • Behaviors

  • Ideals

  • Ideas

  • Values

  • Beliefs

  • Traditions

  • Thinking patterns (fixed vs. growth mindset)

  • Communication patterns

  • Feeling patterns (your major dominate emotions)

  • Recreation activities

  • Default/fallback activities

  • It's an all-encompassing force that permeates all you do as a family

As mentioned above, you may not think you have a family culture because you "haven't worked on one yet".

Not so.

Every family, no matter it's physical makeup -- has a family culture whether they're aware of it or not.

And it started before you were married (or had children).

My husband is a life coach and has worked with thousands of families on 5 continents.

He has seen family cultures -- like thinking and feeling patterns -- passed down generationally -- from parent to child to grandchild!

Your family culture is THE WHY to the 'way things are' in your family.

It's why you do what you do, such as:

  • who does the cooking

  • who does the cleaning (and if it happens or not)

  • what you do in the evenings or mornings

  • how you respond to upsets and irritations

  • how you view mistakes and failure

  • complaining and gossiping

  • criticism or praise

  • how you handle challenges and obstacles (obstacle is the way)

  • your 'go-to' activities -- board games, outside time, movie time, service, video games, screen time, etc.

  • worldviews of culture, races, community, legacy, contribution, etc.

  • eating habits and diet

  • curious or clueless

  • family traditions (even down to who hangs the lights on the Christmas tree)

  • where you live

  • what you believe

  • your education levels and expectations for your kids

  • your income levels and spending habits

Family culture becomes is your 'default' -- it's what you do when you don't have to do anything. It's what you do when you're not thinking about what you're doing.

And it's what keeps you from making positive changes when you start to recognize that some of the things you are doing are sabotaging your happiness.

You can make a huge effort to change your habits, but as soon as you pause to rest and "stop paddling"-- the underlying currents of family culture take over and start to move you in downstream.

Culture ultimately determines what will happen in your family (and your life).

Does that mean we're victims of culture? Is there any hope of making improvements?

No. We are not victims of culture.

And yes. We can intentionally build the family culture we want. We can guide, direct and shape it. Family culture is malleable.

It's not easy.

It's like rerouting a river.

But it is possible with specific tools and truths.

And it's worth it. You want your family culture to be a massive driving force in the right direction -- the direction of improvement, growth, and happiness.

You want it to be 'easy' to be your very best selves -- as parents, as children, and as a family whole.

That happens with a strong, positive family culture.

And it begins with AWARENESS.

Make a list of the good, bad, ugly & beautiful aspects of your family culture. What are your defaults?

  • What does your family do habitually?

  • What makes you unique?

  • How do you have fun?

  • How do you deal with challenges?

  • What are the family patterns?






Time Management?

To continue this journey, let's dive into 5 Simple Truths of Family Culture and how to use these truths to improve your family culture. You can also find an extensive list of family culture resources below.


Join The Extraordinary Family Life Formula and learn how to intentionally create an extraordinary family culture.


More Resources for creating a positive Family Culture:




More Articles from the Web about Family Culture:

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