Define Family Rules and Enforce Them Promptly
Why take this step? “The fact is,” says Ronald Simons, a sociologist at the University of Georgia, “kids fare better with clear rules and firm consequences. Without structure, children become self-absorbed, selfish, and unhappy—and they make everyone around them miserable too.” God’s Word simply states: “If you love your children, you will correct them.”—Proverbs 13:24, New Century Version.
The challenge: Defining reasonable limits for your children’s behavior and enforcing those limits takes time, effort, and perseverance. And children seem to have a natural urge to test any such boundaries. Mike and Sonia, who are raising two children, sum up the challenge well. “Children are small people with their own minds and desires and an inborn tendency to sin,” they say. These parents dearly love their girls. But they admit, “At times, children can be stubborn and selfish.”
The solution: Imitate the way Jehovah dealt with the nation of Israel. One way he expressed his love for his people was by clearly defining the laws he expected them to follow. (Exodus 20:2-17) He outlined the consequences of disobeying those laws.—Exodus 22:1-9.
Therefore, why not make a written list of the household laws, or rules, that you feel your children must obey. Some parents suggest limiting such a list to just a few rules, maybe five or so. A short list of well-chosen house rules is less difficult to enforce and more likely to be remembered. Next to the rules, write down the consequences for breaking them. Make sure the punishments are reasonable and that you are willing to enforce them. Review the rules regularly so all—including Mom and Dad—know exactly what is expected of them.
If the rules are broken, enforce the consequences quickly, doing so in a calm, firm, and consistent manner. Note: If you are angry, wait until you calm down before you administer any discipline. (Proverbs 29:22) However, do not procrastinate. Do not bargain. If you do, your child will think that the rules are not to be taken seriously. This is similar to what the Bible says: “Because sentence against a bad work has not been executed speedily, that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad.”—Ecclesiastes 8:11.
How else can you assert your authority in a way that benefits your children?
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“Just let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No.”—Matthew 5:37