Stupid rules and parenting

“I want our kids to be good, not necessarily happy.”

From the beginning of our parenting days, this was the quote my husband would constantly say.

What Steve meant by this was that in raising our children, he wanted them to see the big picture. Doing and acting as they please, may make them happy, but it isn’t necessarily going to make them good. He wanted them to have a love and passion for those things in the world that touch the heart of God. He wanted them to care. However, we learned early on that imposing a bunch rules wasn’t necessarily the way to make our children good. Boundaries are healthy, but parenting involves so much more. It’s a lifetime of teaching, listening, extending grace, and pouring out love so that our children learn to make good decisions about their lives.

The other day, we were at the mall. Steve and Grace (our middle) took off on their own. Grace is our careful child, and rules are very important to her. Steve and Grace came to the escalators to go down from the second floor, but discovered both escalators only traveled up. To go down you have to walk to the opposite end of the mall or go into the department stores. It’s quite stupid. And our mall recently removed all the stairs. Anyway, in moment of rebellion, Steve told Grace to run down the escalator even though it was the up escalator. “Be careful not to fall,” he said.

At the bottom of the escalator, two men were working and they yelled up at my husband. “You are not supposed to do that.”

Despite their comments, my husband made a choice. “Run Grace!”

So the two of them ran down the escalator. Grace of course fell, however she didn’t hurt herself. The men gave my husband a dirty look and made some comment as he walked away from the escalator. He and Grace giggled. Grace talked about that for the next few hours of how they got in trouble, but she seemed to enjoy the moment with her dad.

First I would like to say, I would have never done that. I would have taken the time to go to the opposite end of the mall. But Steve always has taken more risks in life than me, thus he does well in marketing for Compassion. Yet, he is far better at drawing good boundaries with our kids than myself. There are rules we make to help our children, and there are rules that sometimes …well let’s admit it, they are stupid.

I constantly have to ask myself, am I disciplining my children to help them or to help me? Sometimes I impose rules or discipline on my children out of being annoyed, frustrated, and tired, however, it may not necessarily help them be good. If rules become more important to me than the heart of my children, my children are going to whither up instead of blossom.

I see this in every aspect of life, at work, doing mission trips, church, and at home. We can make our rules and we can enforce our rules. But, if our rules become more important than people, then our rules are legalistic and empty, and relationships get hurt. Rules are for protection not for destruction.

My husband always teases me. “You are such a rule follower.”

I am a rule follower… I admit it. Sometimes it’s easier to follow rules than to follow God. And I like it when my kids follow rules too, however, after 20 years of living with a man that takes risks, and is incredibly wise, I have learned that there are certain rules it’s ok to bend in the right moment. There are certain times you must let go of the letter of law to get to the spirit of law. It’s the same in parenting. Teaching our children discernment, wisdom, respect, knowledge and understanding is much bigger than a simple set of rules. Teaching them to make good choices not based on fear of man (or fear of me), but based on the Word of God, is excellent parenting in my opinion. Sometimes you do have to let the kids run up the slide at the park, or run down the up escalator so that they learn that life doesn’t always revolve around a set of rules and that they have this freedom. We want to raise great kids who do amazing things with their lives. A set of rules just won’t cut it.

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Sandra Jones Counseling

Specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy


Life, Family, Faith and Travel...the life of a Jones

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