Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Why consistency KILLS legalism in children

Anyone who talks to us about parenting will hear us say at some point, "The hardest part of parenting is not disciplining your children; it's disciplining yourself!" Being consistent in routine, rules, and enforcing standards is fatiguing. The objection against it may be, "You'll exasperate your kids" or "You'll breed legalists". However, I would argue that the number of rules is not the issue; it's the consistency and manner that is the issue. Consistent enforcement of rules will actually FREE our kids.

If God is our standard, we parents could not make up as many rules as we see in Scripture. For every person and circumstance "Love your neighbor" could have infinite applications, all of which would be sins NOT to do if faced with them. The Old Testament law was not easy to keep up with. In other words, God had and HAS a lot of so-called "rules" but no one can say God is trying to make legalists. "Legalism" refers to our trying to secure approval via obeying rules. We make our kids legalists when they think our love for them is conditioned on their compliance; instead, obedience should be the response of love and trust.

By contrast, when we are consistent, kids know what to expect; when we are inconsistent, kids face unpredictable circumstances; parents must repeat themselves even more, thus increasing the number of disciplinary moments. Think about some of our most common "rules": don't hit other people, don't litter, don't cross the street without an adult, etc... Do these rules exasperate our kids? No, because it is the established, clear standard of behaviour. These boundaries become like gravity. It's just life. There's no guessing.

Parents, support one another. Be consistent. If there is imbalance between parents or in enforcement, kids may villainize one parent or feel exasperated.
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