You’ve set a curfew for your teenage child and every time they go out they seem to have a wonderful excuse as to why they are late. You’ve set a dating standard for your home, and your kids seem to want to debate as to why it doesn’t apply to their current situation. Perhaps you have an adult child living at home who challenges your decision to make church attendance a requirement for living in your home. Whatever the case may be, it seems like standards, whether big or small, are challenged almost before they are set. How does a parent navigate through this journey, and how does one know if and when to reassess?
1) Don’t communicate standards hastily
If we are constantly setting new rules or drastically changing them, our family won’t believe us when we set a new standard. Their reaction might be, “I’ll wait and see if this blows over,” or “If I apply some pressure on this standard, it will surely break.” Set aside some time to pray with your spouse, talk to peers and those with experience regarding family rules before coming to a determination of what is right for your household. More often than not, the times I've blurted out a standard without thinking about how best to communicate it, no matter how righteous the standard, I've come across as judgmental and arrogant. However, if I wait on God for an appointed time, I can set the bar with meekness, gentleness and kindness. Psalm 25:9 reminds, “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” Try to anticipate what objections might be presented at the time the standard is communicated. This way, you will be prepared to calmly and objectively respond to any arguments rather than reacting to them.
2) Don’t keep your kids in the dark
Give them a why when possible. Explaining why the rule is necessary is essential to your family. This is especially true if you have tweens, teens, and college aged children. By providing the facts that led you to your decision, you are teaching them how to set standards for their own lives and future families.
3) Don’t be surprised when they resist
“Rules are made to be broken” the popular adage teaches. Certain personalities resist standards and rules just because they exist. Just as it is wise for you to wait for the proper time and way to communicate, it is wise for you to allow your kids time to react negatively before you react to them. Flesh doesn’t like to be told what to do. Remember, we are not to walk according to the flesh (Gal. 5:16). You’ve taken some time before presenting the standard to them, so allow them a little time to digest it. This does not mean you are not to enforce the new rule, but rather give them time to work on their attitude about it.
4) Don’t be moved by the reactions of the participants
Your children may be upset about your decision for some time, that doesn't make your standard incorrect. Assuming you’ve prayed and sought godly counsel, it is not likely that you’ve make a wrong choice. Parents love to please their children. However, pleasing our children isn’t our mandate. In fact, children pleasing their parents is a more biblical response. You are called to lead and that can make you unpopular at times. In the end, you must walk in the confidence that God is directing you as the parent to lead your family on a godly path.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths" Proverbs 3:5-6.
5) Don’t give up, but rather stand firm
Your children, and those around you, are watching to see if you will stand by your convictions. The world is crying out for those who live by what they say they believe. In the end, they will respect you for being resolved to not compromise. "If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace" (Ex. 18:23, NIV).
Setting and living by standards is a powerful way to share your convictions with your family. Whether they end up agreeing with those convictions and standards or not, the respect and admiration they will eventually have for you—for sticking to your guns—will benefit all.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster