Rules are an important element of your parenting plan. We’ve talked before about having set family rules that are grounded in your family’s values. But rules alone are not enough. If you focus all your parenting energies on rule-following, you might be able to change your child’s outward behavior, but you will likely have little effect on the underlying condition of his heart. Furthermore, focusing only on the “do’s and don’ts” can lead to a legalistic family environment. As Christian parents, we need to go one step further by spending time engaging our children in training activities that will address their particular areas of weakness and struggle. Here are some things to consider as you seek to go beyond the rules in your home:
- Your training activities should aim to “flesh out” your posted family rules (here are some ideas for family rules). This will allow your children to get invaluable practice translating their head knowledge about a rule into a transformed heart attitude.
- Don’t focus on more than one rule-based training activity at a time.
- Training activities should be time-specific, task-oriented and (hopefully!) fun.
- Your training efforts should enhance your relationship with your child, not strain it.
Here is an example:
Surface problem: Child has difficulty sharing.
Underlying heart problem: Selfishness
Biblically-based value: Be generous with other people. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” 1 Timothy 6:18
Corresponding rule: Do not grab things out of other people’s hands.
Training activity: Create a “giving jar” to help make giving more fun than taking. With your kids’ help, cut slips of paper and write down different ways to give to others during the day on each one (examples include: give someone a snack of their choice, give someone a hug or a kiss, give a toy to someone for the day, let someone go first, let someone have the bigger piece, etc). Each morning, everyone in the family picks a slip out of a jar that contains a task to be completed by the end of the day. At dinner time, everyone can share some details about their “giving event” and how those activities help to fulfill the command in 1 Timothy 6:18.
Also, you can check out another idea for an “other-oriented” family activity here.
Christian parenting must go beyond just saying “no.” We need to address misbehaviors with consequences as they happen, but also we need to go one step further by incorporating training activities with our kids that will help make an impression as to the importance of that rule. When our children can see the rules in action, there is a special connection that happens in their hearts. And of course, every time we see our children demonstrating Christ-like behavior, we need to make an effort to point it out.