Monday, December 28, 2009

Setting Sensible Standards

Dear friends,

This is an excerpt from my book The Real Life Home School Mom, which is available for free download in the sidebar of my main blog, We're reevaluating standards in our family, so that made me think of posting this for others who might be doing the same.


One cause of conflict between parents and children is rules. Home school parents are famous for setting standards for their families. After all, we want nothing but the best for our precious ones! As I think about how we make decisions on various issues, a few important principles come to mind. Our family’s standards and rules should be fair and reasonable, not arbitrary or picky. We shouldn’t make a rule just because other families do it. We don’t want to be self-righteous, pretending that we have perfect knowledge and obedience. Eventually, people would see the many flaws beyond our masks -- the same faults our children see in us every day. So in all things, we want to be wise and humble, depending on God for both guidance and strength to do what is right. There are four principles I think we can use when setting sensible standards for our families. As our children understand them, they are more likely to want to cooperate.

The Test of Truth: For a Christian, the absolute standard is the Bible. The Scriptures are quite clear on crucial issues, and give plenty of general principles to guide us through the gray areas. We shouldn’t have to agonize about whether it’s OK to get drunk, cheat on tests or taxes or spouses, etc. (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17.)

The Law of Love: The whole law of God is summed up in the command to “love one another.” (See Matthew 22:334-40.) Will our choice help other people or hurt them? We teach our children to “do to others as you would have them do to you.” We don’t want our children to call each other nasty names because it violates the law of love. Similarly, we don’t take what belongs to others or punch people in the nose. We want our teens to come in at a reasonable curfew hour at night so that Dad can go to bed and get some sleep. It all boils down to loving others! Read 1 Corinthians 13!

Sensible Stewardship: We must faithfully use and care for the many resources which God has given us, and neither squander nor destroy them. These include our time, money, possessions, health, energy, intellect, talents, moral purity, relationships, the environment, and much more. (See Matthew 25:14-30.) If I restrict TV viewing, I am preserving our time, intellect, and moral purity. If I don’t let anyone take food and art supplies into the living room, I am trying to extend the life of our furniture and carpet. If I warn them against the dangers of smoking, I am guarding their health. If I insist that we take our recyclable garbage out to the garage instead of tossing them in the kitchen trash, we are conserving the earth’s resources.

Winsome Witness: How will this affect my ability to be a positive influence on others? I’m not advocating the “what will the neighbors think?” kind of fear that provokes many picky rules. But, we should honestly evaluate whether our choices will cause others to stumble on their journey of faith. That may mean we do some things in private or keep our opinions to ourselves. (Look up Romans 14.) This will also mean that we need to keep our front yard looking neat and tidy. The children have to put their bikes and roller blades away when they are done. And it means that we keep complete school records for our annual evaluations. We want to be a good testimony for our chosen lifestyle!

Let natural and logical consequences pack their own punch when you can. If a child leaves her toys out in the rain and they get ruined, this natural consequence is its own “punishment.” Logical consequences are initiated by the parent but still closely related to the “crime.” If a child “forgets” to do his math, he might miss out on a family activity until it is done. If he carelessly damages school materials, he might have to pay for replacing them.

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