Your Family Charter: Why Are We Here Anyway?

by Ron Haynes


Photo by Search Conversion

Experts in the field of team building recommend establishing a team charter – a document that spells out what it is the team is to accomplish, how, who is accountable for what, the boundaries of responsibilities, and a step by step action plan for achieving success. We charter yachts, planes, and teams, why don’t we charter our families – setting their direction, establishing their course, and determining (ahead of time) what principles will guide them?

Families are teams, too

Your family unit is also a team, with responsibilities to each other and to your community, your church, and your country. Maybe I missed it, but I‘ve never heard of a family establishing a family charter – a “why are we here” document that spells out the family’s goals, responsibilities, expectations, and vision for success as a family. We do this all the time with businesses, why don’t we do this with our family?

Just imagine the good could come from sitting down this weekend with your spouse and children and establishing your own family charter that defines the purpose of your “family team,” how it will work and the expected outcomes? What if you and your family established a set of “directions” that would guide each of you based on your shared values and visions of success for your family as a whole and each family member individually? Would that have any value to you?

The Family Charter

The charter must be specific enough to keep your family on track, but it should not restrictive or cumbersome. And, although there will certainly be disagreements and conflicts about the charter as it’s being developed, remember to use conflict resolution and negotiation skills to deal with any friction.

Make sure your family charter:

  • Answers the question, “What is our family’s purpose?”
  • Defines the values that will guide your family
  • Spells out individual roles
  • Sets boundaries
  • Establishes the processes needed to manage familial relationships
  • Encourages collaboration among family members
  • Establishes responsibility and accountability
  • Sets up how decisions will be made
  • Addresses conflict resolution
  • Sets the criteria for how success will be measured
  • Identifies resources you’ll need to function successfully

I don’t currently have a family charter

But I’m going to sit down with my wife and children this weekend and open up a discussion. I plan to discuss our finances, our joint and individual goals, and our values. I also plan to discuss what and how we see our purpose as a family unit.

Additional family charter ideas

I’m planning to print ours out, frame it, and place it in a prominent area of our home. It might create discussions with others who visit on how we as a family unit view our role on this earth.

Decide as a group about how to budget for giving and insure that it matches the family’s values.

I think it would be a good idea to have each family member sign the family charter as a symbol of their agreement with the direction we’re heading.

Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail.

I’ll keep you posted on how this goes, but it’s something I’ve been turning over in my mind for quite some time.

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Interesting idea. My husband and I have a list of things like that relating to our specific relationship, but I hadn’t thought of applying the idea to the whole family. (And I still need to do this more thoroughly for my business…)


Love this! We have procrastinated on doing this in our family. We have basic ideas, but have not completely worked through them and printed it all out! This was just the push I needed to get this on our “to-do” list. Thanks for the encouragement!

Sid Savara

Hi Ron,

As someone who is definitely more analytical and geared towards ideas of team building and business, I love the idea of using a charter and establishing your family as the “team” that is following it.

The point I really like is setting up an agreed upon way that decisions will be made. I think very often the cause for conflict isn’t always that the outcome is a decision someone disagrees with – rather, they feel the process wasn’t fair and didn’t give their perspective a fair hearing.

Credit Girl

I think this is a great idea and a new and interesting view about our modern-day family. Nowadays, everyone is so consumed with their own activities that we fail to look at our family as a whole unit. I think establishing a charter like this will help keep our family goals aligned. For instance, my family loves to help out at charity fundraisers because it’s for a good cause so we always make it an effort to somehow give back- either by donating our time or attending the event and donating money.

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