I was a teenager in the 60’s – part of that generation most noted for questioning authority. Some of the authority at that time needed to be questioned. The laws and traditions that discriminated against individuals based on race or gender needed to be abandoned and changed. Yet, rules that contributed to public safety, general courtesy or respect, and those that helped maintain an orderly society were also suspect and discarded by some. That left a vacuum for which families are still paying a cost. Rules in and of themselves are not a BAD thing, especially when they protect young children.
Rules within a family can build a sense of security, belonging, and give children direction. These are ALL very positive outcomes.
1) sense of security – a boundary gives children a sense of security. They will come to realize that if they stay within the boundary – obey – they will be safe from punishment or other consequences of disobedience. They also learn that someone loves them enough to require them to hold hands in a parking lot, or save the snack for after lunch.
2) belonging – as soon as children learn to talk, they will compare their privileges (or lack thereof) to those of another child. “Why can’t I have a …….. Suzy’s mom lets her have one!” “Why do I have to sit here?, Freddy gets to sit in front.”As a parent we can feel “peer pressure” to allow our children to do things that we don’t feel comfortable with. Having a clear sense of your families’ convictions about issues that arise will help you avoid the trap of giving in. Some rules apply just because your family feels it is best for them. Many kids love to join clubs – and there are requirements for membership which the children don’t mind because they want to be a member. The membership in a family is a given, but there can be standards that each family holds as important and which differ from family to family. These can develop a sense of belonging for our children if they understand the reason the family follows those standards.
3) direction – rules that require accountability instill self-discipline in children. These rules provide direction to children letting them know that when they are asked to do something – someone will actually see if they did it! Many young people struggle with a sense of direction. They go from one interest or hobby to the next never investing the time or discipline it takes to become proficient. (see post – “Cleats or Heels?” 5-14-11) As parents we can give clear direction on risk behaviors to avoid by setting rules.
The KEY to effective use of rules is developing a positive relationship with our children. If a child recognizes that we consistently love and care for them, they will KNOW that the rules we establish are for their good. This does not mean they will always like the rules. If they do – we are probably not doing our job as parents! Yet even very small child can understand that when we take a toy away that is thrown – it is to protect a little brother or sister.
Proverbs – the book of wisdom – has a lot to say about rules.
Proverbs 6:20-22 NIV 20 My son, keep your father’s command
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them always on your heart;
fasten them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
I love how these verses cover it all – “when you walk”, “when you sleep”, when you awake”. God our Heavenly Father models rules within the context of relationship for us. “While we were yet sinners” He loved us, and now that He is our Father, He requires us to walk in His ways.
When we come to know Him as Father and truly believe that He loves us, we have no desire to rebel against God. If the rules we establish in our families are not rooted in our relationship with our children, then rebellion may result.