When our kids were smaller, searching Google for things like “house rules” and “discipline” I came up with ridiculous results including, and I am not kidding, “Do not start fires in the kitchen.” Wow… so glad I am not living with those little crazies! Sitting down together, we wrote our own and came up with 10 simply worded values, none of which talked about fire. For example:

We know parents want us safe.

We ask before we go anywhere (physically or virtually).

We don’t keep secrets.

We share about our day.

Our house rules express attitudes, painting a picture of our family vision, rather than things that are forbidden. Every now and then we hear our kids say, “I’m not allowed to do that.” We quickly reiterate that these attitude steer the direction of our lives – they aren’t rules telling us what not to do. And the attitudes were birthed out of a vision for who we want to be as a family.

Obedience Built on Trust

Steve and I can set rules out the wazoo, but rules are pointless if Adrienne and Addison don’t trust us enough to obey. Trust must be built on the foundation of relationship. Relationship provides context and inspires the trust it takes to obey. These house rules are the framework not only for keeping them safe, but to keep our connection to one another strong and beautiful.

Relationship calls us to do life together, pulls our kids into our lives and inserts ourselves into theirs at every opportunity. Our rules include lots of face time. We do unhurried dinners together. We climb rocks, enjoy art nights, plan picnics and compete in board games. We do anything and everything together. After all, that’s the point and the joy of being a family.

Rules to the Rescue

When we set rules, they’re clearly not about limiting fun and the opportunities. Our rules ensure it can continue uninterrupted. Willful disobedience could land our kids in a world of ache and angst that they were never meant to taste. If they choose to go where they’re forbidden, act in a way that’s discouraged, or make choices that aren’t agreeable, they open themselves to danger that we planned to steer them around. And it’s to not just their own detriment – it impacts and hurts us all in ways, because we are connected.

I hear the Father heart of God when reading Deuteronomy 6. He teaches us to parent with our whole hearts and be fully alert. He has huge plans for us, things we are uniquely tailored to succeed at and enjoy, so he calls for our careful obedience, lest we miss out on the ticket to our adventure.

“Be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you… you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road… Write them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.”

Obedience Pays Off

The great news is that if my kids’ disobedience effects Steve and I, so does their trust and obedience. This is family: they get to be in on the joy of our adventures and as we do in theirs. If building relationship and following through on discipline is work, the payoff is children who are a joy to be with, both right now and far into our future together as a family. So when we catch them trusting us enough to easily obey, we genuinely thank them.

Thank you for doing that right away. Thank you for not arguing. Thank you for being agreeable and compliant. We enjoy our time with you. You are so pleasant to be around. You are such a blessing to us. We appreciate you. You are a gift to us. You help us make an impact on other families. You make us look good!

Written by Melissa Brendtro