Rules – Relationship = Rebellion; A Parenting Principle

A core theme that we teach at Doing Family Right is this:

“Rules without Relationship = Rebellion.”

Dr. Dave Currie was the first person I heard it from, and he doesn’t hesitate to admit that he heard it first from someone else, but we have grabbed onto it and developed it from there. This statement usually causes some degree of bewilderment for many who initially hear it, but that quickly fades to understanding when we illustrate it.

Let me first ask, do you ever break the speed limit?

I ask because the speed limit is enforced by police officers, who we generally don’t know personally. We aren’t worried about disappointing the officer we don’t know, we are only concerned about the financial cost or punishment that comes along with getting caught. After all, we don’t believe we are going fast enough to cause physical danger are we?

The rules and boundaries at friends’ houses however, are different. We wouldn’t walk into their house with shoes on if we knew it bothered them and it was a house rule not to do so. We would value them and our relationship with them enough to do what we know makes them feel happy and respected. We are afraid to disappoint our friends and the loss of friendship is a far greater cost than a few dollars out of our wallet.

happy little girl and her mother having fun outdoors on the green grass in sunny summer day

Think back on the majority of your own personal rebellion or disrespect. Chances are that you will find yourself remembering times where you felt dissociated in relationship from the one you were rebelling against. Or it was a rule you felt was silly that you couldn’t see the reason for, made by someone you didn’t know or didn’t care about.

We tend to respond in ways that reflect how we feel about the relationships associated with particular standards in our world.

This same principal applies to our parenting.

If we function as prison guards or drill sergeants yelling at our kids, or just telling them what they can and can’t do, they will rebel. They need to trust that you love them if they are ever going to trust that the rules you are setting have good reason and relate to their personal safety and betterment.

Arbitrary rules never work, unless the risk is high enough, but even then they are usually partnered with resentment and angst, hurting whatever relationship did exist up to that point.

I will admit that there are times where we have to simply say no to our children, and particularly when they are young, we need to step in and get in the way of their attempts to do things we know will harm them. In the end though, we always have to keep our relationships with our kids strong and steady. The fear of disappointment and the knowledge that we have their best interests at heart are FAR more powerful than any consequence we could possibly dish out anyway.

Additionally and maybe most importantnly, we as believers in Jesus are incredibly blessed to follow a God who offers and desires a relationship with us. We don’t follow rules for rules sake, but rather follow God for relationships sake, which means that the standards we follow are done so out of a context of trust and relationship. Thank you God for parenting us as we should parent our children