Family Code of Honor

A Family Code of Honor is a set of guiding principles for how family members interact with one another. It also sets out how the family, as a unit, interacts with the world around it.

Creating a Family Code of Honor may not be simple. A traditional family consists of a man and woman who come from different families. That man and woman grew up with their own set of rules. Those codes may be compatible in some areas and in conflict in others. This is something that will require compromise and discussion. This is even more complicated when the family is a blended one, in which there are children from a prior marriage.




Every family is different. Yet every family has a way is which the family operates. In other words, every family has a spoken or unspoken code of conduct. That code of conduct may be positive or negative. Some families have a set of rules that promotes contributing to the community. Some families have a set of spoken and unspoken rules that enables alcoholism. One set of spoken and unspoken rules is more positive, and the other is more negative.

Yet, very few families have a verbalized, intentionally-created Family Code of Honor. A Family Code of Honor helps the family unit and its members aspire to be their best. That is the different that a Family Code of Honor makes.




At How To Create a Legacy, we understand that everyone comes from different families. Each family has a different code of conduct. When our company works with a married couple, there are two codes of conduct in force. We have to put those two Codes on the table. We then look for commonalities and differences that we may need to reconcile.

Developing a Family Code of Honor requires all family members to give the time and effort required in establishing and living it. This may sound easy. But it can create anxiety. As Dennis Jaffe points out:

Even smaller family meetings — such as of parents and their adult children —share this anxiety about starting. The feeling of awkwardness or the fear that one person will dominate, that others will not be heard, or that a business issue will trigger deep family emotions may lead to avoidance. A family expresses this by finding it difficult to schedule the meeting, postponing it, or limiting the time together.


(“Family Code of Conduct: Getting Everyone Together to Listen, Learn, and Grow,” Saybrook Forum, January 11, 2012.)

The Family Code of Code is created in a series of facilitated family meetings where all family members are allowed, and in fact required, to provide their input in the process, and that input is given the value it deserves.

Angeles Arrien (Angeles Arrien) in her book Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary, presents how each family member participating in the sessions needs to act according to the FOUR-FOLD WAY®

  1. The Way of the Warrior — Show up and choose to be present.
  2. The Way of the Healer — Pay attention to what has heart and meaning.
  3. The Way of the Visionary — Tell the truth without blame or judgment.
  4. The Way of the Teacher — Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome.

In addition, it is best to establish rules that will be used during the family sessions while creating the Family Code of Honor. Example rules:

  1. Create an environment where all participants will feel safe – ask everyone what they will need to feel safe.
  2. No interruptions allowed unless you are stopping someone else from interrupting.
  3. All family members will be shown respect.
  4. All family members in attendance will participate to the best of their abilities.
  5. Open and honest communication that accepts responsibility – “I’ statements.
  6. Confidentially is essential – what is said in the session stays in the session – unless the family agrees otherwise.
  7. Set-up a procedure for making decision.

When completed, each family member agrees to the Family Code of Honor, signs it, and then takes an oath to live by the Family Code of Honor to the best of their ability.




Here are some sample principles for a Family Code of Honor:

  1. Show respect for yourself and other family members.
  2. Resolve conflicts.
  3. There will be open and honest communications.
  4. Accept responsibility and be accountable for your behavior.
  5. The family members can and will change; that may require a modification of the Family Code of Honor.
  6. Family unity is a primary goal.
  7. All family members will be allowed to participate in creating the Family Code of Honor™ to the best of their abilities.
  8. Be giving and open.




When it becomes necessary to let a family member know that they are breaking the Family Code of Honor and you are the person who is responsible for doing so, use these tips. (Taken from Blair Singer’s book, Team Code of Honor: The Secrets of Champions in Business and in Life.)

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Acknowledge that whatever the speaker is saying is true for that person.
  3. Listen actively.
  4. If you made a mistake, admit it.
  5. Ask the person how you can make it right and make amends to the family.
  6. If the call that’s being made is not accurate, simply go back to the Code of Honor.
  7. Become truly interested and inquisitive about the call.




  1. It’s never too early to start developing your Family Code of Honor.
  2. Find and use a facilitator to work with you.
  3. Confront and resolve issues relating the reality that we come from different families with different codes and principles.
  4. Define what constitutes your “family”
  5. Give the process of developing your Family Code of Honor the time and effort it deserves.
  6. Realize that your Family Code of Honor will require revision as your family undergoes change.




If you are ready to  create your own champion family, we’re ready to help. Just email us at 

About the Author

Michael Zolno has an MBA and MA in research psychology and almost 40 years’ experience as a consultant. He is also a co-founder of How to Create a Legacy, LLC.

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