The way I see it, two extremes exist. Those who set no rules for their kids and those who have rules galore. Most of us are struggling to strike the right balance between these extremes. I’m actively seeking ways to achieve that balance. We are trying to set enough rules to keep our kids safe and healthy while at the same time provide enough freedom that rebellion is not the first step they will take into adulthood. I havent figured it all out yet, but here are a few things I’m trying to implement consistently.
Listen to your kids. Mine will usually let me know if a rule is unnecessary. Now I don’t just throw away any rule my kids don’t like. But I do listen to their conversations and reactions when a rule is introduced or implemented. By listening to my children I have been able to observe when a rule pushes them towards rebellion. Sometimes a firm line is necessary. One day recently, I told my daughter not to wear her gymnastics leotard outside the house. I stopped her from going outside several times, but as soon as I dropped my guard she snuck out the door. I looked up to see her biking past in less than modest clothing. Not only was she in direct rebellion, her choice of clothing was inviting trouble and reflecting poorly on our family and Christ. She was brought inside and sent to bed. On the other hand, sometimes you can give a little. I will allow my daughter to wear her gymnastics leotard under her dress all day long now, because she loves the sensory input it provides. I found out about her love for this leotard by giving her a chance to tell me why she was biking around the neighborhood in it (right before I sent her to her room).
Choose your battles. As I said before, some lines need to be held. While it is important to make sure your child is dressing modestly, is it really that important if your child matches? I decided it was not. I would rather fight over modesty then fight over matching. I found with my oldest daughter that she eventually learned to match her clothing on her own even without the outside influence of public school. So unless we are heading out for a special occasion like church, my kids are allowed to wear pretty much any modest clothing they choose. Cleanliness is another example. We clean up our main living area each evening before my husband comes home. This is not negotiable and is an act of submission on all of our parts. We also clean up the whole house on the weekends as a family. However, we allow our kids to keep their lego creations assembled for weeks on end, as long as they are in the play room and can be moved for the occasional vacuum. We found from experience that it was hurting the hearts of our children to tear apart the lego creations they had labored on all week long. It wasn’t a battle worth fighting.
Less is More. You can come up with an infinite number of rules to govern the behavior in your home, but usually a smaller set of simple rules will suffice. Depending on your children, Love God and Love Your Neighbor might suffice. I’ve found it does help to get a little more specific with out kids. The ten commandments are a great place to start, and to that we have added rules about the specific things that our children struggled with — cleaning is a great example. Everyone messes, so everyone cleans together. Period. The more specific rules you create, the more rebellion you can stir up in the hearts of your children. You also remove the need for self-government – a skill all of us need to develop in the safety of home. Please hear me though. I am not suggesting you let your kids run wild all over the neighborhood, dress however they want, or treat elders with disrespect. I am suggesting that we teach our children to look at everything through the lens of the Bible and only make a specific rule in areas of temptation or struggle.
Say Yes Whenever You Can. For every request your child makes, you can either say “yes”, “no” or “maybe”. For some reason, my default has always been a quick no. So many times I realize I don’t have a good reason for my response. If the question is “Can I have a cookie?” and the time is 20 minutes before dinner then I have a good reason. If the question is “Can I wear my rollerblades without socks?” that is probably something I can bend on. I think this is similar to picking your battles, but on a much smaller scale. Moment by moment, question by question, how often could you have said yes today?
I’m looking for balance, praying for discernment, and implementing these concepts in my home.