Developing family rules, responsibility, and respect first begin with what we value. Pastor Rick Warren has told us many times that value depends on who owns something. The Bible tells us that we are God’s treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6); we are precious to Him (Isaiah 43:4); and it tells us that value depends on what someone is willing to pay for it. Christ paid His life for us because God loves us and considers us His children (1 John 3:1).
Being new parents, my husband and I felt the enormous weight of caring for our baby boy. We were new Christians and under spiritual construction. We both had tumultuous childhoods and adamantly didn’t want history to be repeated in the way we parented. We decided to delve into the world of Christian parenting and learn how to raise our kids for Jesus. The first thing we realized is that we had a lot of baggage to attend to in our lives. The spiritual journey will be a lifetime work of transformation as we shed the old self and put on the new self in Christ. It was apparent that if we continued to allow the lies of our past to dictate who we are in Jesus then history would be repeated in our children. We needed to understand that Jesus had made us acceptable, that we are eternally loved, we are completely forgiven, and are fully capable to become who/what Jesus has purposed us to be. This brought a sense of new found security into our lives as we operated in the Truth.
As we made Jesus the most valuable person in our lives our perspective about parenting changed. Where we once felt the weight of the ownership of caring for our son and daughter, we now discovered that God intended for us to be managers of His children. If we believe we own our kids we become dictators, but if we understand that we are meant to manage the gift God has given us we become teachers. A dictator will lay down rules that must be followed to the ‘T’, while a teacher will guide, instruct, and lead.
Developing family rules from the time your children are small and beyond should be founded on God’s Word. We used two scriptures to guide us in determining to lead and teach our kids, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind”, Matthew 22:37; and “Love your neighbor as yourself”, Mark 12:31 These scriptures helped us keep rules and throw out rules that just didn’t align with these truths. My husband and I also needed to have many conversations before we sat down with the kids to make sure we agreed and logical rules could be discussed. This helped us figure out if some of our rules were to control (own) or allow choice (manage) in our kids. Believe me, as I look back on those years, I see so many times that I chose to control and now wish I hadn’t felt so insecure in those decisions. If you are having a hard time, like we did in some cases, allowing your kids to make their own choices within reason because the consequences that they may possibly face are embarrassing to you, then it’s time to step back and let God work on their hearts and minds. We live in a time where our Social Media accounts paint perfect pictures of beautiful families, but you may be surprised to find out that the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, no longer conveys the complete truth. Parenting is not for the faint at heart; it is hard work. Families are under attack and no “perfect picture” will convey the truth unless we start being real and sharing our battles. There will be choices our children make that will result in consequences so that they will learn and grow and make better decisions in the future. Be your kid’s encourager, cheerleader, mentor, and life guide. May they feel loved and accepted even when the boundaries of the rules are crossed, and you need to enforce the consequences. Allow them the opportunity to learn without the worry of what others will think. No one is perfect, not one.
It is easier to do for your children to the point that they aren’t learning responsibility. Even a two-year-old can pick up toys and put them away. Developing an atmosphere of responsibility within your family means that each one should carry their own load (Galatians 6:5) that is reasonable for their age and season of life. A strong sense of responsibility requires a large dose of patience from mom and dad. Make sure you have established a reasonable list of expectations with your family. Then allow your kids to step up to the responsibilities they have on their plates. Doing for them what they can learn and grow from in doing for themselves will stunt their maturity. Empowering them to take on the responsibility, do it in the time frame you have agreed upon, and reap the rewards of their labors is a teaching moment. I know an amazing family that have made it their kid’s responsibility to contribute financially to their school field trips to Sacramento and Washington D.C. They started teaching their boys to tithe, save, and put aside money to spend from every dime they received since they were 4 years old. The two oldest boys had the opportunity to go to Sacramento in their 4th grade years and took great pride in the fact that they paid for the trip with money given to them and money they worked hard for to go. They had a vested interest in going and both said all the hard work was worth it! Not all opportunities for responsibility will bring a, ‘this is worth it mentality’, from your children until they are much older. It is unrealistic to bring up children with an entitled mindset and expect them to grow up to be responsible. This is a skill that takes nurturing, opportunity, and restraint on the parent’s part. Allowing your children to reap the consequences or rewards of their efforts will impact their future as they become productive members of society.
Even though those little people you have been entrusted to raise may be young, God holds them in high esteem. Not only should they respect us as their parents (Exodus 20:12), we must respect them as well (Matthew 19:14). Listening is an act of love. Love is an act of respect. Love and respect are entwined. The only thing we take to heaven is our relationships with other believers in Jesus. You may be right in your effort to reason with your kid, but have you voiced that opinion at the expense of your relationship with them. You are raising your sons and daughters to love God. Eventually, these little people grow into adults. Your relationship will evolve from a parent, to a coach, to a friend. It is important to realize that you aren’t their friend yet and they will need to do some things that you ask them to do without constant discussion, but overall as your children grow listen to their hearts. Modeling respect conveys value to the individual you bestow this virtue. When we feel heard and considered even if the answer still is, “No”, we come away from the discussion maybe disappointed because we didn’t get what we wanted, but the child/parent relationship is intact. Love and respect prevails when we pray, when we ask our kids for a few minutes to calm down before our temper or theirs escalates, when our body language and tone of voice is kept in check, when we don’t keep stoking the fire of the discussion with rude comments, and most importantly when we don’t make rash decisions that lead to severe consequences in our anger. Be ready to seek forgiveness of God and your child when things go awry. Remember you and I are not perfect; we will have bad days. Thankfully, our Jesus is a God of second chances!! Seeing your child as an individual, one who is made in God’s image, will help you love and respect them as you are loved and respected by your heavenly ‘Abba’ (Daddy).
You are God’s chosen for the task of parenting. He has equipped you with everything you need in Him to raise warriors for Christ even if your childhood beginnings were not the best. Determine to get rid of old hurts, habits, and hang-ups. See yourself and your little ones as so valuable in God’s eyes and decide to see yourself as God sees you. You are deeply loved, completely forgiven, totally accepted, and fully capable to live life with Hope. Teach your children to Love God and Love their neighbors as themselves as they follow your family rules, develop responsibility, and learn how to respect you and others.