Christian Living


Your Kids Want Rules

Mom and daughter having an argument

Believe it or not, kids want rules. I discovered that strange truth as a twenty-something, teaching seventh and eighth graders in a rural Oregon town.

I can still see skinny Davis asleep at his desk, temple on his forearm, mop of straight brown hair flopping over his face. Everyone at school whispered about the marijuana. He didn’t deny it. He didn’t have to; he was the “cool kid.”

Davis would rouse from his fog to shrug or mumble an “I dunno” whenever I directed a question his way, but he rarely volunteered to participate in class discussions…except for the day I took a vote in class. “Raise your hand if you want rules and you want your parents to enforce them.” I thought maybe one lone student would have the courage to raise his or her hand. Maybe.

Instead, a large majority of the thirteen-year-olds immediately lifted hands indicating they did want discipline, including Davis. It shocked me. Who knew teenagers would admit to something like that in front of peers?

Still, what Davis did next surprised me even more. He sprang to life, pacing and gesturing as he spoke. He wanted rules and resented that his parents wouldn’t discipline him. Oh, his mother would get mad and chase him with a broom occasionally, he said, but he pretty much got away with doing whatever he wanted. He admitted it made him feel as though his parents didn’t care about him.

I consider that day one of the most astonishing of my twelve-year teaching career. I couldn’t believe a teenager, especially the school’s “cool kid,” would share so openly. I always thought kids wanted boundaries and discipline somewhere deep in their psyches, but I had no idea they were aware of it.

Davis knew he wanted rules. But you can bet he never told his parents.

What Parents Can Do

  • Boundaries make kids feel loved and secure, so set firm limits.
  • Formulate your rules from God’s Word, and let your children know they are his rules. They are responsible to him.
  • Explain the purpose for your rules and invite discussion about them. That doesn’t mean you give in. It’s OK if the chat ends with your saying, “I understand your point of view. (Parrot their thoughts back to them here.) But God made me responsible to do what I think is right for you, and as long as you live in my house you still have to abide by my rules.” If they have a good point, change the rule.
  • Start early. Once kids reach Davis’s age, they will fight all attempts to guide them, even if it is what they want down deep.

Prayer for Myself

Give me the wisdom to set boundaries and the courage to discipline my children when they cross them.

Pray for my Children

Jesus, give them soft hearts and the willingness to submit to you.

Copyright © 2007 by Jeannie St. John Taylor. Excerpt taken from Culture-Proof Kids: Building Character in Your Children, published by Living Ink Books, AMG Publishers. Used by permission.




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