Teach Kids about Rules
“Can I really only have one cookie?” “Do I have to go to bed now?” “But I don’t want to do that now!” Do any of those sound familiar? It’s part of human nature to push against the rules placed on us. But healthy, God-honoring rules actually keep peace and promote happiness. Rules set firm guidelines for behavior and expectations—this might be within a family, friendship, or classroom. When we teach kids about rules, we’re helping them learn about God.
Here’s three ideas to help teach kids about rules.
Talk with kids about how God gives us rules for our good. The 10 Commandments are a good example. When one of them is broken, chaos follows. Explain that because we aren’t perfect like God, we have rules and boundaries for all the different places we are each day–home, school, and other activates. It’s good to make sure rules are clearly defined and that any consequences for breaking them are known beforehand.
When appropriate, share the reason for the rules. For example, when explaining a rule about not eating snacks whenever they want, I might say something like this: “You’re not allowed to eat snacks without permission. If you’re always eating snacks, you won’t get the nutrients you need from dinner.” Try to show how your rules are meant to help honor God and reflect His character. Be aware that as we start pointing to the reasons we have for our rules, we might find some of our reasons aren’t very well thought through and need some adjustment. Rules should promote peace, build trust, and show consideration for others including those in authority.
Help kids learn to respect authority. Whenever I run into issues with kids refusing to follow rules, I often find they don’t respect those in authority over them. They reason that if they don’t like whoever is in charge, they shouldn’t have to listen to them. Have you ever felt that way about a boss or other authority figure? Even if we don’t get along with the people in charge, God still wants us to respect them. Teach kids it’s important to listen to people who are in authority, like teachers, babysitters, police officers, and others.
Keep in mind, that although we all have to deal with people we don’t always like or get along with, we should never have to put up with abuse, and kids shouldn’t either. If someone is abusing their authority, it’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed right away. Teach kids that if someone in authority causes them to feel uncomfortable about whether something is right, they should talk to you about it, because people with authority need to be accountable to others. They have people over them too, and we all help each other do right. If you have reason to believe someone is abusing their authority over a child in a way that is causing emotional or physical harm, speak up. When a child is in an abusive situation, they don’t have the power to set boundaries to keep themselves safe.
Let your own life be on display and accountable. Do you ever speed? C’mon, be honest. You can say this to your kids, “I know we’re running late, and I’m very tempted to speed, but I know if I get pulled over by a police officer, we’ll be even more late. Also, the cost of a ticket is really expensive, and I don’t want to pay that. And worst of all, speeding could cause a bad accident, and someone could get hurt. If you ever see me speeding, please remind me that it’s NOT worth it.”
Understanding the cost of stepping outside of limits helps kids learn to value rules. It also points to the loving care we can see in the rules God places on His children. His rules and boundaries for how to live
are for our good and when we cross those lines, there are consequences. Those consequences may not happen right away, which makes it easy to feel like we got away with it. But making a habit of breaking rules can make the inevitable consequence even worse. You can also talk to kids about ways to get rid of the temptation to break rules. For example, you can tell them something like, “Let’s be sure to leave on time so I’m not tempted to speed.”
As children get into the teen years, there will need to be more conversations about when it’s appropriate to question authority, but for the early years, learning submission to rules and the authority behind them is foundational.
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