Ep 160: Does Your Family Need a Code of Excellence?

Frank Figliuzzi, author of The FBI Way, shares knowledge on effectively instilling values in a family unit. He walks us through creating a code of conduct based on your family’s values, and shares the number one thing everyone gets wrong about consequences.

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Full show notes

Parenting can sometimes feel like it’s never predictable. Even when we think we know our kid, some new interest or personality trait suddenly comes out of left field. Maybe your kid has always been a total carnivore, but this week, all their friends are vegan...so they want to be vegan too! Yesterday, your kid wanted to be a pro basketball player, but today they want to be a painter...tomorrow they’ll tell you they’re destined to be a scientist. It can be dizzying to keep up with your teens as they grow and evolve everyday!

But what about when a kid who’s always happy and smiling suddenly seems tired and disinterested in things? Or when your teen who swore they’d never smoke accidentally leaves a vape in the kitchen? When these kinds of unexpected parenting troubles pop up, it’s hard to adjust and react effectively. It can be incredibly challenging to avoid the urge to panic, and nearly impossible to remain cool and parent through peril.

According to this week’s guest, the secret to handling the ups and downs is to define our values–and stick to them. His name is Frank Figliuzzi and he’ the former assistant director of the FBI, served as FBI chief inspector for sensitive internal inquiries, and is now a national security analyst for NBC news! His new book, The FBI Way: Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence, highlights the principles that make the FBI so successful at handling crises and explains how you can apply those same principles when things go awry with your teen.

In the episode, we’re touching on what Frank calls “the seven Cs”, or seven fundamentals that parents can practice to create a harmonious house and handle conflict when it arises. We’re covering the importance of sticking to a code of values, practicing clarity, and enforcing consistent consequences–but not without compassion, credibility and conservancy.

Finding Your Family’s Code of Values

When we’re using a device and something goes wrong, we check the manual. If we’re cooking and not sure which spices will taste the best, we look at the recipe. In our nation’s legislative and judicial process, we consult our constitution for guidance about what’s best for our citizens. So why shouldn’t parents and teens have a guide that they can refer back to when things feel out of control? In the episode, Frank emphasizes the importance of having a code–the first of the seven Cs– that your family follows and falls back on in times of uncertainty. It’s what the FBI does...and you should try it too!

Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be, says Frank. It can be as simple as promising to always treat each other with respect, or agreeing to always be honest.

As more things are added to the list, you might even want to write them out to ensure accountability. Frank explains in the episode how his son (now a lawyer, of course), asked if they could all formally sign a contract declaring their families core values! Once you’ve created this code, Frank explains that your family should act as a conservancy–the second of the 7 Cs. This indicates a collective effort, meaning everyone is equally responsible for maintaining this code, including parents.

In order to ensure that everyone abides by the code, Frank believes that consequences (number three of the seven Cs) are super important. Without consequences, the rules tend to fall flat! When someone violates one of the values in your family code–say, being dishonest and lying about finishing their homework–and nothing happens as a result, they’ll just keep on doing it. Soon enough, they won’t feel any need to be honest about anything anymore, since there’s no consequences for dishonesty. But if they can no longer play their XBox as a result of their behavior...they might be more concerned with the truth the next time around. Just like in the FBI, there’s no lying under oath!

The fourth of the seven Cs is clarity, and Frank reminds us that this is of the utmost importance. Even if we have consequences in place, they’re totally useless if they’re unknown! By making sure things are clear, we ensure that teens know consequences before getting themselves into trouble. If they’re aware that they’ll be grounded for coming home after 11:00, they can’t claim they didn’t know, or try to get away with it! Plus, clarity helps to maintain fairness. If everyone is clear on the 11 o’clock curfew, then you’ll have to punish both kids for violating it...even if you tend to be more lenient with one than the other.

These four Cs may outline the basics of creating a code of values, but there are a few more principles Frank recommends that parents follow if they want to keep things on track despite road bumps!

Compassion, Credibility, and Consistency

Ok, so all this talk about consequences might feel a bit authoritative. In our interview, Frank explains that to avoid becoming a tyrant, compassion is key! Frank and I discuss how, when the family is under stress or a kid is experiencing an intense emotional rollercoaster, part of parenting through it is giving kids some wiggle room to fail or mess up.

Frank explains that when someone is set to face punishment in the FBI, the organization takes into account more than just the transgression at hand. Maybe the offender was under a lot of pressure that day, or expected to handle something outside of their usual scope of responsibility. It’s okay to give teens this same leniency when things aren’t quite going to plan.

It’s not only kids that mess up, it’s parents too. That is why parents need to be transparent and embrace the sixth of the seven Cs: credibility. As Frank and I discuss in the episode, by admitting your own mistakes and taking steps to fix things when you misstep,you show your kids you're capable of taking credit for your actions. In turn, this makes you more credible as a figure of authority, says Frank.

The last of the seven Cs is consistency–meaning sticking to your code of values, even when things get rough. When you spy the vape your teen left in the kitchen, it’s easy to blow up on them–but if you specified the importance of respecting each other, it might be wise to think about how you can go about the conversation respectfully. On the flipside, having defined honesty as a core value might make it so that your teen is more willing to be open about where they got the vape, how often they’ve been using it and why they decided to get it in the first place.

When it comes down to it, Frank’s seven C’s are about creating a home environment that promotes justice and fairness–while making sure rules are still followed! By defining a code of values and taking the appropriate steps to make sure it sticks, you and your kids might just find the light at the end of whatever tunnel your family is facing.

In the Episode...

There are so many valuable takeaways from this week’s interview with Frank! On top of the topics discussed above, we also talk about…
  • How we can persevere through turmoil in our families
  • Why kids have a strong sense of justice
  • When to stop searching for answers and move on
  • What we all can learn from the FBI response to 9/11 and the anthrax attacks
  • How to avoid falling into the trap of bureaucracy with teens
Thanks for listening! I hope our discussion has helped you on your way to creating a stronger, more aligned family team. If you liked this episode don’t forget to share and subscribe. We’ll see you next week.

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Frank Figliuzzi
Frank Figliuzzi
FBI Assistant Director (ret); NBC News National Security Analyst https://t.co/82RWJ4cHaa @nbcnews @msnbc; book: THE FBI WAY: INSIDE THE BUREAU'S CODE OF EXCELLENCE
Ep 160: Does Your Family Need a Code of Excellence?
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