Our Model

Family Matters is founded upon three guiding tenets that are shared, explored and utilized at every level of the organization and among all members of the Family Matters family (youth, parents, volunteers, staff and board).  These three Principles of Leadership provide:

1) a method of thinking and being that opens pathways to encouraging possibilities;

2) an approach to resolving conflicts that fosters both harmony and new beginnings, and

3) a reframing of consequences as opportunities for learning and growth.

These principles operate within all of Family Matters’ programs and efforts to support individual and community enrichment in ways that are both impactful and joyful. Among other gifts, these principles yield strong relationships, meaningful communication, and empowering environments – foundations upon which demonstrations of inspired personal and collective achievement can unfold.

In addition to infusing these principles into every aspect of our programs, we extend them into the larger community by offering Principles of Leadership training for parents, teachers, board members, volunteers, community residents, and organization leaders multiple times each year.

Principles of Leadership


Utilizing Positive Thinking and Language offers a way of thinking, speaking and behaving that encourages a respectful environment of trust, cooperation, acceptance, and honesty. This approach seeks to:

  • enhance relationships with ourselves, others, and the broader community.
  • communicate free of blame, shame, judgement and fear.
  • encourage active listening and critical thinking.

Encouraging Peaceful Conflict Resolution invites us to enter into a conflict with the intent to strengthen relationships – increasing our empathy toward others and understanding their viewpoints. This approach:

  • uses conflict as an opportunity to understand perspectives that are different from our own.
  • provides a structure to settle conflict with civility and compassion.
  • encourages individuals to gather information to make the most informed decisions possible about their behavior and thinking.

Illuminating the Power of Responsible Decision Making is a process that assists people in choosing behaviors that are most likely to lead to positive outcomes. This process:

  • encourages people to think critically about options, make healthy choices, and take responsibility for the results.
  • seeks to avoid punishing, shaming, and retaliating against self and others.
  • balances personal freedom of choice with the safety and health of self and others.

Training in the Principles of Leadership

In response to increased requests for training and support in the Principles of Leadership, Family Matters shares its tools and strategies with audiences outside of the organization via the Respectful Communities Training Program. The program annually trains 40-60 individuals and organization teams. Recent graduates of the program include the local alderman and state government officials, school principals, faith-based leaders and corporate executives, among others.

If you or a group from your workplace, faith community, organization would like to learn more about this opportunity, please email us today.

What participants are saying . . .

“The Principles teach the importance of communicating honestly and clearly what each of us truly desires, while negotiating mutually satisfying outcomes.  They provide a common language and the tools necessary for neighborhood residents and organizations to accomplish both personal and collective goals.  I am deeply committed to the Principles of Leadership, having taken the course individually and then again with my management team.  They have provided us with skills we need to work out our mission moment by moment and interaction by interaction.”

Ronn Franz
Executive Director, Good News Partners

“As a participant, I was humbled, and ultimately changed, by the communication principles and role-playing exercises. As an employer, I had a key staff member take advantage of the training. After the training, she became more effective in her work by being able to communicate directly and without judgment. As the Chair of Partners for Rogers Park, a collaboration of 12 organizations, I have seen the training improve our ability to work through conflicts more quickly and with less collateral damage.”

Kimberly Bares
Executive Director, Rogers Park Business Alliance

“The Principles of leadership have changed my personal life, my family life, my professional life, and the way in which I strive to live in community.  Personally I have been challenged to change the words I use to reflect the confidence and value that my thoughts and ideas have. 
The Principles of Leadership also changed the way I interact with my parents, my brother, and my children.  With the tools I learned related to peaceful conflict resolution I am able to say the things that I need to say in a way that my family can hear, and allow their choices and the resulting consequences to play out without resentment or anger.  I find less and less struggle in ‘disciplining’ my children as I teach them to ask for what they want and work with them to see that our goals and desires are met.” 

Hope Reyes
Program Minister, Irving Park United Methodist Church
Family Matters Board Member

“The Principle of Leadership training made a truly positive difference in my daily life.  It definitely affected the way I react to situations, the way I speak to/with the young man I tutor and it affected the way I mother my children.
The Principles of Leadership encouraged me to think, listen, reflect and react with empathy. The training comes into play each day in my life and I am so glad that I took the time to take this training.”

Holly Smirl
Family Matters Volunteer

“Principles of Leadership changed the way I communicate with my family, with my friends, and at work. It peels away the layers of nothingness that stop me from saying what I really want to say. Taking the ‘just’ and ‘should’ out of my speech makes me feel relieved every time I work to do it. When I ask myself “what is my goal?” in communicating, it leaves me without regret about what I said, even in the middle of conflict. Instead of agonizing and wondering endlessly, when in doubt I check it out. I never regret that, because it opens up more topics than I thought it might. I also listen three times now, and I listen to what someone else is saying and feeling before I open my mouth to protect or promote myself.  People at my job tell me that they cannot be as direct as me, and that they wish they could be. I tell those people that they can be direct if they ask themselves: ‘What is my goal?’  ‘How do I feel?’  ‘What do I want?'”

Gretchen Ekerdt
Immigration Attorney, Maria Baldini-Potermin & Assoc.
Family Matters Tutor and Board Member