As parents, our primary job is to love our children. Our secondary job is to prepare them to face the world as responsible, competent, and compassionate adults. Unfortunately, our children live in an age that teaches them rules are meant to be broken, and that boundaries are restrictions on their freedom. Our children constantly hear the message that youthful rebellion is a virtue and that they need to try out all of life's experiences, both bad and good. Unfortunately, this can lead many teenagers and young adults on a path that leads to broken relationships, difficulty maintaining a job, and trouble with the law.
Parents can be an enormous force for good in teaching obedience. However, some parents mistakenly believe that parents who demand obedience are controlling or stifling their children's individuality. We need to realize that teaching children discipline is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. By helping a child learn obedience in the safety of the home, he or she will be prepared to follow the "laws of the land" and fulfill job and family responsibilities later in life. It is important to instill the virtue of obedience when children are young when repercussions are insignificant instead of waiting until our children are thrust into the real world and face dire consequences. As L. Tom Perry, a family advocate, stated, "Obedience to the law is liberty."
So, how can you, as a parent, teach your children to view your rules as loving guidelines instead of chains to be broken? Here are some ideas:
Establish expectations of behavior
Children, whether they're 3 or 13, thrive on clear boundaries, despite protestations to the contrary. When children have reliable expectations, they feel secure in their homes and loved by their parents. Hold a family meeting and clearly lay out household rules. Write them down and put them in a place that's easily accessible to the entire family.
Create logical and consistent consequences
Enforce punishments that always fit the specific crime, and make sure your children know what consequences they can expect from certain behaviors. Creating a list of family disciplinary measures will result in fewer battles in the heat of the moment.
No idle threats
Kids and teens will push you to see if you will follow through on your commitments. Stand firm in your established expectations and consequences. Society follows through on consequences to laws and punishes laziness. You won't be doing your children any favors if you teach them that you'll back down if they pitch a fit.
Cultivate a culture of love
No matter how good of a job you do, your kids will still make mistakes. It's how they learn. Your children are much more likely to confide in you and seek out your advice if you've created a safe and loving home environment. No one wants a jail warden as a parent. Your kids need your love and encouragement as they overcome their mistakes.
The home is a child's first school, and his or her parents are the lifelong teachers. Life's hard lessons are best learned in the safety of home, with loving parents who have a desire to show the way. Kids will always test the limits of their parents, but parents can nurture children who are obedient to household rules. Teaching children to value society's laws will set them up for a lifetime of success and personal freedom. Be firm and consistent and your children will learn to love your guidance.