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Q: Describe what you mean by roots and wings as they pertain to instilling values into family life.

Tim Stafford: "Roots and wings" represent the difficult combination of a solid foundation—which come as we communicate core values to our children—and freedom. Families need to be built on principles, but they also need to express those principles in a way that suits their personalities and their interests. I see those "wings" of freedom coming through family culture—the way each family finds its own unique approach to family life. Every family should be built on core values, but every family must do it in a way that's right for them.

Q: What prompted you to write Never Mind the Joneses?

Tim: A lot of families just lurch from crisis to crisis. I wanted to give them a way to develop a thoughtful philosophy of family life, to design a family culture that reflected their deepest beliefs and also expressed their unique personality.

Q: Why do you think so many parents struggle to instill lasting values into their children?

Tim: Many parents feel uneasy with their own authority as parents. They don't know how to insist on their basic values without becoming authoritarian and rigid.

Q: What do you mean when you write that family culture is the "single most powerful force for passing on values"?

Tim: We can talk about values until we are blue in the face. Only when values become part of our family habits do they really sink into our children's lives.

Q: You focus in your book on core family values like generosity, contentment, rest, sexual fidelity, unity and other important values. How did you select these particular values?

Tim: I went carefully through the Bible, looking especially for ethical teaching. Paul's letters, the Sermon on the Mount, the book of Proverbs, the Old Testament prophets—I especially concentrated on these, asking myself what core values lay behind these teachings.

Q: As an example, how do you instill the idea of rest into your own family life?

Tim: For our family, Sunday really is a day of rest. We avoid shopping, we don't carry on with our jobs or with big home projects, and we make sure to go to church for worship. We try to keep a rhythm in our lives that makes Sunday different from other days, and genuinely restful. Vacations are also an important part of our family culture. For one thing, we take them. For another thing, we vacation in a way that's really restful to us. Some vacations are exciting but not necessarily restful. For us, backpacking has been a way to get completely away from the activities of life that tire us out.

Q: What is your hope for the readers of Never Mind the Joneses?

Tim: I hope it will help parents take control of their family life. I hope it will make them think about their core values and how those get expressed in their family. I also hope they will think about what makes their family different from every other family, and take enjoyment from that.