Stephen R. Covey

Franklin Covey, Golden Books, 1997, 364 pp.   ISBN 0-307-44008-7


Stephen Covey, grandfather and father of nine children, is the celebrated author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, and several other well-known management books.  This book applies the seven habits to the family.  Or, alternatively, it organizes his recommendations for the family under the seven topics.  This book contains much practical wisdom.  It is full of illustrative stories that really make the points.  It will be very helpful for people who are naturally organized and goal oriented and almost impossible for those who are unstructured.  But I have to think that one absolutely determined family member can wreck the whole thing.


“When we’re trying to live what we believe, struggling but moving in the right direction, our children will usually accept our values.” (4)


“Parenting is basically a life of sacrifice.” (5)


“The key is in having a destination, a flight plan, and a compass. (10)


“What you can envision for the future ... is more powerful than ... whatever situation you are confronting in the present.” (12)


“All true and lasting change occurs from the inside out.”  Instead of trying to change the situation or your child, go to work on yourself.  (15)


You need a basic framework of fundamental principles that you can apply in any situation. (18)


Effective families mean families with a beautiful family culture. (20)


Habit 1.  Be Proactive. 

Between the stimulus and the response there is the freedom to choose. (27)

When you react you do things you regret.  But you have the ability to act on principles and values rather than reacting based on emotion or circumstance. (29)


Develop the gifts vital to proactivity: self-awareness, imagination, willpower, and conscience.  (40)


Focus on the areas that you can do something about, your circle of influence.  (40)


Learn to say, “I’m sorry.” (52)  “If you’re going to bow, bow low.” (53)


Be loyal to family members when they are not present.  Don’t talk about them. (55)


“Make and keep promises.” (56)


“You will always be a victim until you forgive.” (60)


Three primary laws of love to make the foundation of a beautiful family culture:

·        Acceptance rather than rejection

·        Understanding rather than judgment

·        Participation rather than manipulation (61)


Make deposits in the emotional bank accounts of others. (64)


Habit 2.  Begin with the End in Mind

“Create a clear, compelling vision of what you and your family are all about.”  Define your destination and make every decision based on that destination.  “A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about and the principles you choose to govern your family life.” (71-2)


At seminars he often asks each individual to write a one-sentence answer to the question: “What is the essential mission or purpose of this organization?”  “It’s vital to have the entire culture aligned—to head toward a mutually agreed upon destination.” (73)


Putting principles first gives a sense of appropriate priority to everything else. (74)


Marriage problems almost arrive out of conflicting role expectations and are exacerbated by conflicting problem-solving strategies.” (83)


“With a clear sense of shared vision and values, you can be very demanding when it comes to standards.” (95)


“Through a family mission statement you can let your children know that you are totally committed to them, that you have been from the very moment of their birth or adoption.” (99)


“Creating a family mission statement enables you and your family to examine, clarify, and renew those promises—and to keep them constantly before you so that those commitments become written in your mind and your heart, and affect the way you live your life every day.” (99)


Habit 3.  Put First Things First.

Two family organizing structures: a weekly ‘family time,’ and one-on-one bonding times.  (113)


“If you really want to prioritize your family, you simply have to plan ahead and be strong.” (114) Start with the assumption that family is non-negotiable, not work. (118)


“Does watching television make you kinder? More thoughtful? More loving? Does it help you build strong relationships in your home?  Or does it make you feel numb? Tired? Lonely? Confused? Mean? Cynical?  “The media can literally drive the culture in the home.” (124) There is so much good on TV – but it’s like digging a lovely tossed salad out of the garbage dump. (125)


“Cultural forces fundamentally alter our moral or ethical sense of what is, in fact, right.”  “We lose our moral bearings.” (127)


Moral armament is developed in the family.  (132)  “If we don’t build better homes, we’ll have to build more prisons....  Emotionally starved children will turn into angry adults....”  “Who’s going to raise my children—today’s alarmingly destructive culture or me?” (133)


“Probably no single structure will help you prioritize your family more than a specific time set aside every week just for the family.” (137)


“By creating and living b y a mission statement, families are gradually able to build moral authority in the family itself.  In other words, principles get built right into the very structure and culture of the family.” (142) Family time is also a great opportunity to teach basic principles of life. (143)


“The greatest thing you can do for your children is love your spouse.” (154)


“Nothing communicates the value you place on a child or your relationship with that child more than giving your time to the child.” (156)


Habit 4.  Think “Win-Win”

“Most people are willing to think win-win if others will, but all it takes is one proactive person to think it deep inside and to genuinely want a solution that is ultimately win-win.” (172)  “The concept of trying to develop a win-win relationship is always applicable, but all decisions and agreements won’t necessarily be win-win.  Sometimes you may make an unpopular or win-lose decision with a child because you know it’s wise.” (178)


“Win-win is really the only solid foundation for effective family interaction.” (179)


“Develop an abundance mentality, the idea that there’s plenty for everyone and that there is an infinite number of third-alternative solutions....” (181)


“Parenting is not about being popular and giving in to every child’s whim and desire.  It’s about making decisions that truly are win-win—however they may appear to the child at the time.”   “You can let them win in the little things.” (184)


“Discipline is not emotional.  It’s handled in a very direct and matter-of-fact way, carrying out the consequences agreed to beforehand.  Whenever a child misbehaves, it’s important to remember Habit 2 (Begin with the end in mind) and to be clear about exactly what it is you’re trying to do.  Your end in mind as a parent is to help the child learn and grow, to nurture a responsible person.  The objective of discipline is to help the child develop internal discipline—the capacity to make right choices even when there are influences to do otherwise.” “Affirm, rather than deny, the child’s ability to make choices.” (197)


Habit 5. Seek First to Understand...Then to Be Understood.

“Without understanding, you might as well be yelling into the wind.  No one will hear you.” (203)


“Until we gain the capacity to ... set aside our own glasses and really see the world through the eyes of others—we will never be able to build deep, authentic relationships and have the capacity to influence in positive ways.” (204)


“Much of the pain in families is caused by lack of understanding.” (207)


“Basically our satisfactions come from our expectations.” (208)


“The problem with judging or labeling is that you begin to interpret all data in a way that confirms your judgment.  This is what is meant by ‘prejudice’ or ‘pre-judgment.’” (209)


“It’s a common tendency to project our own feelings and motives on other people’s behavior.”  “Because everyone is unique, each person needs to be loved in his or her own special way.” (214)


“All people are very, very tender and sensitive.”  “This is why it is so important to create a loving, nurturing environment in the home....” (216)


“Temper gets us into problems, and pride keeps us there.” (220)


“Really listening to get inside another person’s mind and heart is called ‘empathic’ listening.  It’s listening with empathy.” (222)


“When you really love someone, you need to care enough to confront—but in ways that have positive energy and show respect.” (233)


Habit 6.  Synergize

“Synergy is...the magic that happens when one plus one equals three—or more.” (249)


“Because it’s stepping out into the unknown, the process of creating synergy can sometimes be near chaos.  The ‘end in mind’ you begin with is not your end, your solution.  It’s moving from the known to the unknown and creating something entirely new.”  The first three habits ... enable you to develop the internal security that gives you the courage to live with this kind of risk.”  (250)


“The key to creating synergy is in learning to value—even celebrate—the difference.” (251)


Often the delightful differences that attract people in the beginning become irritants and cause distress. (255)


“We know we’re better together than we are alone.  And we know that one of the primary reasons is that we are different.” (257)


“Synergy is creative teamwork, creative cooperation.” (258)  “Synergy unleashes tremendous capacity.” (260)  Involve people in the problem and work out the solution together.” (264)


“Work on the easier issues.  Small victories lead to larger ones.  Don’t bag the process and don’t bag each other.  If necessary, go back to the smaller issues.” (273)


Habit 7.  Sharpen the Saw

“Every family must take time to renew itself in the four key areas of life: physical, social, mental, and spiritual.” (277)


“...the family itself must constantly nurture its collective conscience, social will, social awareness, and common vision.  Family traditions include rituals and celebrations and meaningful events that you do in your family.”  For example, family dinners, birthdays, vacations, holidays, extended family activities, worshiping together, working together, and having fun together (the most important of all)  (280 ff.)  These traditions are the things people remember, that bond and unify and renew families.  (310)


The 7 Habits Family Worksheet – p. 356.


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