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The Place of Rules - Issue 307
July 19, 2013
Hi there! ....

This week we took as a study break – school holiday as it were! And yet, we still had some structure to our days: I needed the kids to have three things in their day, all which needed to be completed before any screen time – chores including one extra chore, something creative, and 1 hour of reading. This worked well and we found a good balance of productivity and relaxation. I had the time to catch up with a friend for coffee, I sorted a few years’ worth of photos (still have a lot more to go), and watched a few movies with the girls. It was a nice week – but this weekend, it is all focus for me as I put the final touches to my planning and preparation or our next study block.

Live life with your kids!

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The Place of Rules

Our society is governed by rules – or so it would seem. I actually think that rules are simply a catch it all for a lack of self-government. I’m sure there needs to be some rules, but I think society has gone over the top and relies on external rules to bring peace, harmony and function to our lives. The same goes for families. It is all too easy to rely on rules instead of self-government.

Self-government is simply when people make choices themselves, based on what is right. In our society the measure for what is right has gone wonky but in our family we can use the Word of God as our bar. We can live our life according to the standard in God’s word, so too can our kids.

It is our job, as parents, to teach the Word of God to our kids, to help them understand God’s ways. When we are little, we are selfish to the core and our default position is set to look after our own interests. We have no ability to make choices to do the right thing. It is by example, instruction and practice that our children will grow to understand how to love another person.

We can use rules to help us in this instructional phase. We may have a rule where each child plays with a special toy for 10minutes and then passes it on. We may have a rule that we take our shoes off at the door, or don’t take our own seatbelt off, or ask for food instead of helping ourselves. These rules give our children a safety net so they don’t offend. But these rules should be short lived.

The goal of our parenting should be to remove the rules and replace them with choice.

“But, but, but…” we splutter!! Our kids will never choose to do the right thing! They will be annoying, selfish and mean. They will be a danger to themselves.

And our concerns are right, if we have always relied on rules and if our kids have simply obeyed. Rules are like props – they hold us up. I’m reminded of the tribe in Africa, where the women wear rings around their necks to make their neck long and ‘beautiful’. But by wearing those rings their necks become weak, and should they be removed, their head flops, and their necks break. This is what our children are like, if they always live by rules.

Now, my analogy breaks down (as most analogies do), because I believe we need to give our kids rules to start off with – but then we need to take them away, and unlike these ladies in Africa, have our kids’ moral backbone strong, so they can stand without the rules propping them up.

The missing process here is giving our children the ability to think and make decisions on truth. There always has to be instruction when we live with rules, our kids have got to understand why the rule is there. If they don’t understand what is behind the rule, they will never be able to live by anything other than a rule. They will never be able to make a right choice on their own.

For example the rule that says, ‘thank your mother for dinner before you leave the table’ is to teach gratefulness and recognition of another’s efforts. If our teenagers are still living that rule, their ‘thanks mum’ is going to sound contrived, rote and insincere. But if the rule is removed, and they have the choice to thank mum or not, then you see their heart.

The rules teach us what is right, and help us live that way. When our kids know what is right, and have some degree of ability of making that choice, they no longer need the rule. At this point they can make choices, consistent with the truths in their heart. These rules were appropriate when they were toddlers, and young children, but as they grow older, we need to let go of the rules, and let them choose and live with the consequences.

Is your house guided by rules, or do you live with choices? This is a scary thing for a parent to consider. And even as I write I am asking myself the same question – are my kids doing what they do because they consider it a rule? What this actually looks like may not even change, we may do the same things, but we do them because we understand the importance, the value of these actions, not because we are living by a rule.

These ideas could create a good family discussion. Some of the questions I may ask my kids are

  • Why do we have a dinner time? My answer (and I risk my kids reading this newsletter!) is so that everyone can be ready to come together – everyone is available at the same time the cook has dinner ready. It helps us respect the cook’s efforts
  • Why do we have chores? We have chores to help everyone be responsible for the maintenance of our home.
  • Why do we limit screen time? Because we see it can consume our days, and we don’t work on our responsibilities or take time for other pursuits. Because we lack the self control to move away ourselves
  • Why do we ….. (insert any issue you are working on in your home) why do we say please and thank you, why do we study, why do we help each other, why are we kind, why do we answer the phone the way we do, why do we exercise, why do we….

Do your kids know why? Knowing why behind the rule, will enable them to make wise choices on their own in the future, enabling them to stand on their own two feet.

And secondly, are you giving the freedom to start making those choices now?

During the week I blog at Live Life with Your Kids! This week I've shared: This week I posted Teaching our Kids to Get Along over at Hip Homeschool Moms Blog.

Or maybe you'd like to read something from my website:

Check out other homeschool and parenting issues over at my website, Lifestyle Homeschool

My Bookshop

Blending Life with Lessons e-book - Does your everyday life challenge your homeschool ideas? This is my journey as I discover that it is possible to disciple my children in today's busy lifestyle.

Heart Focus Parenting book/e-book - A heart focused parent will keep their attention on their child's heart for God, instead of on external behaviours.

Restoring the Heart, Mind and Soul of Christmas Do your Christmas celebrations line up with what you believe? Do your celebrations help your children learn more about Jesus?

This e-book is based on a workshop I held for a couple of years to help families see that Christmas can be a significant tradition in our family life. If we are intentional about how our family celebrates we have the opportunity to use this time to teach our children about Jesus, and his love for each one of us.

My Sitemap is a quick reference to all you will find on Lifestyle-Homeschool. I encourage you to have a browse around!

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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About Live Life with your kids Newsletter

Live life with your Kids newsletter is about being a deliberate parent, about enjoying family life and using the opportunities that happen to teach and train your children in righteousness (right living with God). I hope that you will find regular encouragement as you live life with your kids!

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