With this weekend being Easter, it's important to keep the most important things at the top of our focus. The overriding good news of the gospel is that Christ's death on the cross purchased for His children a restored relationship with God. We are all dead in our trespasses and our sins, before we accept Christ's sacrifice and ask Him to save us.
I want, then, to focus on relationship in this blog. God sought relationship with us, and we in turn must seek relationship with our children. This is one way parents 'follow Him.'
Some parents believe children should learn to obey even at an early age. I did. I moved to the extreme in expecting and training my children to behave well, especially in public. And while this had some very worthy benefits, it caused my children to misunderstand my motive.
It appeared to them that I only cared about the rules, when in fact, I cared about them and their success in life. Yet the saying is true—perception is reality. My kids perceived in me an imbalanced focus on rules and order. They did not perceive my love and desire for relationship with them, at least not as often as I would have liked. Their perception was their reality, and this caused some damage to our relationship.
I'm glad to say that we've worked through much of that misperception, and they know I care more about our relationship than rules. But I've learned my lesson, and I want to share this truth with all parents. Here are three tips for you to keep relationship ahead of rules:
1. Explain regularly the reasons behind your rules. It's easy for your kids to see how much you value rules when you discipline them. It's harder for them to see the reasons for those rules or the motives behind your discipline. Take the opportunity during discipline times, and during the regular times of discussion, to talk about your values—the reasons behind your rules.
2. Listen to your children. Study them and their unique personalities. Parents often over-apply the principle of consistency, trying to keep the rules the same for each child. Or they try to keep their rules the same over time, even when our children change and require a new approach.
3. Don't settle for 'good enough behavior.' 'Good enough' might let you get on with your agenda, but when you settle for a minimum level of obedience, your child's heart is not addressed.
For example, you tell your daughter to clean up her room. She stomps off to her room to do the job, and you are tempted to simply get on with your busy agenda. But if you do you've settled for a bad attitude. And since you haven't addressed it, you are likely to see it continue.
As a result, you aren't drawn to your daughter because of her attitude, and she's not drawn to you since her anger is allowed to fester unchallenged.
I have lots more to say about relationship, especially God's view of it, in my book, Parenting Unchained. Enjoy this Easter weekend, because God cared more about relationship than about rules. That's the glorious truth behind the Resurrection.