Rules Without Relationship is the final ingredient—and probably the most critical of all of the ingredients to avoid. (Of course, without relationship, we as parents have no desire or motivation to try to explain rules, listen to their appeals, or remain consistent in our parenting.) Relationship must be in place in order to keep our children from rebelling against us.
Recipe for Rebellion
Rules Without Reasons
Rules Without Response
Rules Without Repetition
Rules Without Relationship
Love covers a multitude of parenting problems. However, I will note that we can chisel away the relationship we do have with any of the previous three ingredients in our rule making. Even if we have a strong relationship in place with our children and have secured their hearts, we can cause them to take back pieces of their hearts little by little when we do not have logical rules, do not listen to them, and do not have consistency.
Likewise, an incredibly strong relationship can cause our children to accept our decisions even if we do have some of the other three undesirable ingredients. If our children know that we are trying to do what is in their best interest, and that we would not simply make rules to throw our weight around, they will more easily accept those times when our rule making is less than logical or consistent.
Keeping Teens Close
I look back on the time when our three oldest children began entering their teen years, and it seems a miracle that we were able to keep them so close. I know that there were some key experiences during that time that held us together, in spite of our tendency to not always think when making rules and guidelines. The most significant thing that kept our children true to us during that time was love.
More than anything else, love ruled our home. We might have had some wacko rules, many of which had no logical basis. We might have taken away a lot of things from them that other kids got to do or have (and continue to do so). But we always loved unselfishly. We loved them enough to do whatever it took to stay close to them.
Paul’s declaration about ruling with love is what made those years successful in spite of not knowing what we were doing! In Philemon 1: 8-9, Paul told the people that he could have forced them to do what he wanted them to do (which is how some parents handle things), but instead he wanted to love them into doing what he asked: “…although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love” (NKJV).
When we appeal to our children on the basis of love–even if we do not have it all figured out ourselves yet–their response is completely different than if we appeal to them with unlimited, tyrannical authority.
We need to talk and talk often—for many of the 52 reasons and in many of the 52 ways. But one of the most important times to talk is when you want to build a relationship with your kids.
The quote by Frederick Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” speaks to this. We can talk and talk and talk and build close relationships with our children now (in spite of the time and effort it takes during these busy years) or we can try to repair things later. It is much easier (even though it doesn’t feel like it at the time) to build strong relationships with our children right now through talking.