Feminist Family Values by Gina Messina-Dysert

As a new mother, something that is constantly on my mind is how to teach my daughter morals and values.  She just turned three and has a strong awareness of what is going on around her.  Her vocabulary is vast and continues to grow daily.  I know that if I don’t start teaching her values now, I am missing out on an important opportunity.

Although I was raised Catholic and consider myself a “cultural Catholic,” I am uncomfortable with Catholic traditional prayers because of their lack of gender inclusiveness, among other things.  We don’t attend church as we have not yet found a community that we feel is a good fit for our family.

Thus, I have found myself creating new prayers to recite at dinner and bed time; prayers that encompass our family values, are feminist in nature, and are simple enough that our daughter can remember and recite them on her own.  

At dinner time we hold hands around the table and recite, “Thank you, God for this food; Thank you, God for our family.  Amen.”

At bedtime we hold hands and recite, “Thank you, God for this wonderful day; Thank  you, God for our family.  We pray for peace and justice for every person around the world. Amen.”

This has been a good start for us, but I have wanted to take it a step further.  I recently had the pleasure of presenting at the American Mothers National Convention and found that I learned a great deal from the other mothers who participated in the conference.  One practice in particular that another mom shared with me is posting family values on the wall and reciting them each morning.

I came home from the conference eager to pursue my own take on the idea.  I created a simple sign that I posted on our refrigerator:

It is a short list, but it is manageable for our young family.  Before school, we recite the list together.  Between this list and the dinner and bedtime prayers, we talk about our family values three times a day.  I am not sure that our daughter comprehends these values yet, but I think by setting a clear tone within our family and taking time daily to talk about values we are providing a good foundation to build on.

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is a feminist theologian, ethicist, and activist.  She is the Director of the Women’s Studies in Religion Oral History Program at Claremont Graduate University, Visiting Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics at Loyola Marymount University, and Co-founder and Co-director of Feminism and Religion. Gina has authored multiple articles, the forthcoming book Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence, and is a contributor to the Rock and Theology project sponsored by the Liturgical Press. Her research interests are theologically and ethically driven, involve a feminist and interdisciplinary approach, and are influenced by her activist roots and experience working with survivors of rape and domestic violence.  Gina can be followed on Twitter @FemTheologian and her website can be accessed at http://ginamessinadysert.com.

Categories: Children, Family, Motherhood

Tags: , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. How we celebrate, honor, study, create tradition, and live our religious beliefs and values in the home – the private sphere – vs institutions – the public sphere is deeply important. Glad that you are touching on this important topic. Thank You.


  2. I love this so much Gina! I have heard about having family/house ‘rules’ a lot with kids, but it makes so much more sense to center the family’s daily life around values. And to instill that kind of intentionality in kids at a young age is so great. I appreciate you sharing this.


  3. Thank you Gina for sharing this. I have two daughters and I know how important it is to teach values to children. I’m having recite and think about the meaning of these sentences.


    • Thank you, Anialca! I would love to hear about your own family practices as well. :)


      • Gina thank you for asking me about my family practices. What my husband and I do is to pray in each meal, before going to sleep, and at any time. We take turns directing the praying. Sometimes my daugthers say the praying in English and we my husband and I in Spanish. We are Hispanic. My daughters are 10 and 3 years old. the 3 year old sings the praying. She has learned it at school. we say the praying holding hands. We thank for the food, for everything that we have, for relatives friends, neighbors, and any peple in need. People asks us to pray for them and we are happy to do that.


  4. Gina, I admire your ambition to teach your daughter values, even though she is still very young. I don’t think it’s ever too young to start on something so important. I have to believe it will make a difference, especially if your example reinforces what you are teaching her. Your prayers are simple and beautiful and meaningful. One thing we do as a family as far as prayer is concerned is that we pray from our hearts. We don’t offer scripted prayers but rather pray for what we are thankful for and needing at that moment. We pray specifically for neighbors or family we know are struggling and for each other and whatever else we feel is important. That way, each prayer is personal and meaningful (or at least it’s meant to be–sometimes my children get repetetive and lack true sincerity). Anyway, your daughter is blessed to have a deliberate mother who is working to teach her important things.


    • Thank you so much for sharing, Lori! I really appreciate what you are saying here. I think as Sarah gets older we will develop these ideas. But I also think you make an important point that we can start praying for specific persons and movements now. It will be a great way to help her identify and understand that there are people in the world suffering, as well as to recognize her own privilege. Your point is so important.

      On another note, I saw your blog and it is wonderful! I would love to hear more about your family practices and would also love to connect over our experiences with adoption. Thanks, Lori! :)


  5. Thank you for reclaiming the phrase “family values,” which so often gets co-opted to mean “attacking LGBT people and shaming women for sex.” A healthy family cares about sharing, trust, and kindness. Those are real family values.


  6. This is wonderful, Gina. I’ve taken a back seat when it comes to teaching prayer to the kids, but your post reminds me that I need to step up and start teaching them to pray for things like peace and justice in the world. I love that. And I love that you’ve hung your values up on the fridge for all to see.



  1. Feminist Family Values - American Mothers Blog

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