By Sarah Evans
Last time we began looking at the importance of setting limits for our children, and we touched on the topic of house rules. This time I would like to expand a little on each of the steps that can be taken when trying to establish rules within the family home.
Recognise What It Is You Want from Your Children
One of the first steps to applying house rules is for us to reflect upon the following questions:
– What do I expect from my children?
– How do I expect them to speak/act?
– What rules are already in place?
– What rules are already working well in the family home?
– What areas need improvement?
– What rule/s can I put in place to help improve this particular area?
If we want our children to follow our lead, we must first understand what is important to us and decide which area/s we want for them to improve in. Before we even put a new rule into place, it is essential that both parents discuss and decide upon the best course of action, so that they will both work together towards the same goal. In the event where there is a single parent home, the single parent can discuss their thoughts and ideas with a close family member or friend. It is important for us to be clear in our own minds before presenting the new rule/s to our children.
Make Sure Your Expectations Are CLEAR and Realistic
In case we have not yet realized, our children desire to please us! Given the fact that we are the most important people in their lives, it is reasonable to conclude that they want to make us happy and to not let us down. It is the same thing with us: as children of God we also desire to please our Heavenly Father. And yet, how can we please Him if we do not first know what His expectations of us are? Oh but we do. We have the Word of God (Bible) and the prompting of the Holy Spirit as our guide!
In the same way, if we want our children to listen to us and obey our parental authority, we must make sure that our expectations of them are clear and easy to follow.
It is important to remember that house rules will change over time, as our children go through different ages and stages of childhood, for example, bedtime routine will tend to become later and later with a child’s age. But there are also static rules that will remain constant regardless of how young or old our children are, for example, ‘I expect my child to treat me with respect through their words and actions’
Decide Where You Want to Start
There are many rules that can be applied within the family home, but it is important that we assess the area that needs most improvement and start there. It is a good idea to apply one rule at a time, so that our children do not become overly confused and so they can be more successful. Here are a few ideas to get us thinking:
Bedtime: what time do your children go to bed? Is it working for you and for them?
Bedtime routine: what rituals do you want to foster during the time just before bedtime?
Chores/responsibilities: how does your child help with household chores?
Sibling rivalry: what happens when your children argue and fight?
Leisure time: How do your children spend their free time? Is there balance?
Homework: Is there a set time when your children have to do their homework?
Respectful attitude: who makes the decisions in your home, you or your children? What happens when you say NO to your child?
Are there areas of family life that are not working? Is there an issue with your children that you would like to see change? This is a good place to start applying a new house rule.
Ask God to Give You the Wisdom and Strength Needed to Make a Change
One myth that many parents believe is that ‘it has to be this way…my child was born stubborn and difficult…there is nothing that I can do to change it’.
This is not true. Yes, sometimes our children are difficult and stubborn but God has given us the authority over them and His word tells us that ‘we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us’. And so we have everything, in Him, that we need to make a change, what rule can you apply in your family to make this change?
“He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” Proverbs 5:23 (NIV)
“He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” Proverbs 10:17 (NIV)
It may be a difficult path at first but we can make the changes that are needed if we place our trust in God and step ahead with boldness. We must not accept defeat easily at the first hurdle! Our children need for us to be strong for their sake, so they can grow up into obedient, responsible and God-fearing adults.