How Do You Build a Positive Culture?

In my ebook, and in Monday’s post, I wrote about the importance of creating a positive family culture.  Christensen’s quote is obvious, yet powerful to me.

“Those cultures can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently.”

It makes me stop and wonder: What kind of culture is likely to evolve inadvertently in today’s world?  In what ways am I consciously building a positive culture?

Fueled by beliefs and behavior, culture is a powerful tool for creating the overall mood and conduct in a home, in a classroom, or in any other social grouping.  A culture is more than rules.  We obey rules because we “have to”.  We follow culture because “that’s just what we do here”.  A culture is what we do, who we are, what we value, and what we believe collectively as a group. 

I remember as a young teenager, going to church one Sunday with my high school-aged siblings while my parents were out of town.  I still vividly recall someone mentioning that they were surprised to see us there when our parents were gone.  The idea that we could just skip church because Mom and Dad weren’t there to “make” us go had not even occurred to me.  And whether or not it had occurred to any of my siblings, it certainly wasn’t anything anyone had discussed.  There we were, four teenagers sitting in a row on a Sunday morning because that’s what we did, that’s what we believed, that’s what valued.  It wasn’t about what our Parents’ rules were, or whether or not they were there to enforce them.  It was about our family’s culture.

As Christensen stated, a culture is not something we should leave to chance.  We should build intentionally.  It’s something worth thinking about and planning.

As I mentioned, I wrote about building a positive family culture in my ebook, Parenting with Positive Guidance, but I want to hear more from you.  How do you build a positive culture in your homes, classrooms, and centers? 

Here are a few ideas that I’ve gathered from my own experience and from others.  I’d love to add your ideas in the comments section as well!

  • My husband’s parents instituted nightly talks with their little ones.  It was a ritual where everyday each child knew they would get one-on-one time with Mom or Dad and could really talk about their day — the good, the bad, and the ugly — uninterrupted.  And that really meant something, as there were 8 young kids in that family!  It was a tradition they followed faithfully, with the preschoolers and the high-schoolers alike.  My husband has brought the tradition to our family as well.  As he points out, you can’t expect your kids to suddenly open up and talk about all the pressures and life-changing choices of adolescent life if you haven’t created a culture of open communication in the early years.


  • In a recent training meeting, a colleague of mine mentioned that when she was the director of a large child-care center she made a point of greeting each teacher every day and checking in with them at the day’s end as well.  It was something she scheduled in her planner.  Other items on her to-do list had to wait.  She would walk down the halls and chat with each teacher, not just about school, but about life.  Her teachers knew that she wasn’t just an administrator at a desk, she was someone who cared enough to ask about their kids and who was familiar enough with their classrooms to step in and lend a hand.  She reported an amazing difference when she created that culture of caring and communication by building those relationships each day. 


  • My mom makes amazing home-made bread.  I think my brother’s friends in high school could smell it from five miles away!  On bread-baking days our kitchen counter was covered with as many as 14 golden loaves (several of which would disappear soon after the school bell rang).  I remember often being sent with a warm loaf of bread in hand to take to neighbors.  Not because it was Christmas or someone’s funeral, but just because.  Because my mom was creating a culture of service.


  • As a teacher in the university preschool, it was expected that the head teachers, including myself, would make home visits to each and every child entering their classes each year.  It took time, but it was an incredible tool for building a positive culture.    Each child arrived at school with a sense of belonging, knowing they were valued enough for their teacher to make a visit.  It also established an open line of communication with parents and established a reference point for us to understand each child’s home life and background. 

 So what do you do to build a positive culture in your setting?  What do you value, and how do you share that value with the children you love and teach?

{By the way, don’t forget that your discount code – NotJustCute- is valid on my new ebook until Monday!  Don’t miss out on a bargain!}

Top photo by Jason Nelson.

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11 responses to “How Do You Build a Positive Culture?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention How Do You Build a Positive Culture? | Not Just Cute --

  2. A question worth thinking about. I want the culture in our family to be one where we can talk about struggles as well as successes. Along these lines, when someone mentions a struggle they are facing, I want the others to think with them about how they might handle it. Kind of a “we help each other out in this family” culture. Each night at dinner everyone tells their day’s high point and low point (more than one each if they want). If people want help on a low point problem, we talk more about it right then and there.

    This “highs and lows” routine has been a great way to hear some of the real issues in my children’s and husband’s days that I don’t think would necessarily be talked about otherwise. And I hope it’s made our family culture one of more openness and helpfulness.

  3. Momma Mimi

    I too have been trying to build a ritual of nightly talks when we’re tucking our preschooler into bed at night. It’s a bit difficult with our 5 year-old who often replies, ‘I don’t know.’ I hope this will become a family culture that will help him open up a bit more and build this special momment into the years ahead. 🙂

    • notjustcute

      We get the same problem from time to time. I’ve noticed my husband will sometimes recap the day for them and wait for them to chime in with a comment. Something like, “Hmm, let me guess what your favorite part was. Maybe it was having chocolate milk with your breakfast, or was it going to school with your friends? Maybe it was when you were playing outside in the snow or when you made your own pizza for dinner…..” Eventually they usually pipe in with some comments.

  4. What a great post, and definitely a great question to ponder. As you’ve pointed out before, the habit of eating dinner together has so many benefits, so we’ve tried to make that a priority. We want to create a culture of service as well, so we ask each person at the dinner table what they’ve done for someone else that day. When we first started this we’d have kids jumping up to refill a sibling’s glass of water because they’d forgotten to do anything else. Now they’re usually anxious to be the first to share.

    I love your examples, and Suzita’s too. I’m looking forward to reading the comments I hope this post will generate and adapting some of these ideas in our family culture! Thank you for all the work you put into your blog and book, they have helped me so much.

    • notjustcute

      I love the service challenge! It’s good to get them thinking about. Eating together is so powerful too. I know that’s something you do really well — in fact, I was hoping you’d share that idea!

      • Ha, here’s an update on how well I do that: last night when the kids got home from swimming, I was finishing the spaghetti sauce and Joey said, “IT’S ABOUT TIME we had a decent dinner!” 🙂 We’d been eating leftovers from Thanksgiving and the RS dinner, apparently not “decent” food.

  5. I learned about this tradition in college from a roomate whose mother did this for her. Every night before going to bed, her mother would tell her children “my favorite thing about you today was…..”. I remembered this and when my son was born (or old enough) I began telling him a favorite thing about him. I continued this tradition with my next 3 children and we still do it today (my oldest is 21 and my youngest is 4). What I love most about this is that it ends even the most challenging day with love and really helps the child and parent focus on something positive.
    This is a great post! I love the story of your mom and her fresh baked bread! So sweet!

  6. Pingback: Building Family Culture with Traditions | Not Just Cute

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