In last week’s post, The Amazing Secret to Good Parenting, I shared that good parents are continually evolving. Indeed, I know that in my own experience, I am learning and growing at least as much as these young people I’ve been charged with raising. Even so, after a time, complacency sets in. We get in a groove and, thinking we have this parenting gig under control, we stop seeking fresh insights.
But God doesn’t leave us to stagnate in our smugness. Like a master illusionist, He flings aside our veils of blindness and…voila! What was previously unseen is suddenly right before us. Sometimes it is a simple concept brought to a moment of stark clarity, and we are left shaking our heads wondering, “How in tarnation did I not see that before?”
I had just such an epiphany in our parenting class two weeks ago. I sat there dumbfounded. Such a simple concept that I think I understood intuitively, but to have it fleshed out in words was amazing. Perhaps you already have this one down, but I am hoping that I am not the only dull crayon in the box here. My revelation was two-fold:
1.) Behind almost all of the rules of conduct we have for our children (and ourselves) is a moral reason.
At the risk of sounding indelicate, I will share the first thing that came to my mind. Anyone with children should be able to relate. (If you can’t, I would like you to email me your entire dietary plan.) The first thing to cross my mind was kids, dinner table, and bodily functions. Need I say more? It never occurred to me that there is actually a moral reason to refrain from cutting loose at the dinner table. I had never given it too much thought, as we are pretty easy-breezy when it is just us at home. If the kids can control themselves in public, I don’t nag them in private. But I suddenly could see that there is a moral lesson to be learned in teaching restraint in such matters.
So what is the moral reason here? Why should they not honk at the dining table? Well, the Bible tells us to love one another and to treat others as you would want to be treated. It even goes a step further and tells us to esteem others more highly than ourselves. Surrounding one’s dining companions in a cloud of stench for the sake of personal comfort is certainly not a loving act. And doing it for the sake of entertainment is not esteeming others more highly than your own need to show how impressive you are. Tsk. Tsk. I guess there is more to etiquette than meets the eye, yes?
2.) When we don’t give our children the moral ‘why’ behind a command, we do not equip them to make moral decisions that last. When circumstances vary they will have no underlying principles of decency to carry over into new situations.
So what does the inappropriate release of vapors while dining have to do with getting along on the playground? I submit that simply teaching our children the rule, ‘no fluffing at the table’, does not help them beyond the dinner table. Rules alone will not help our children become responsible human beings, nor how to interact with others. However, when we take these natural opportunities to impart the principle of honoring others, it will organically carry over to the playground, the classroom, and eventually into work and even marriage relationships.
If you really ponder that for a moment, it sort of blows you away, doesn’t it? Those bedrock ideals of valuing others and living in love and humility; those principles that we hope to ingrain in our children’s character before we send them out into the world, it all starts here. By telling them why they should not break wind at supper. Who knew that simple table manners could be so far-reaching?
Am I simply full of hot air here? Perhaps. But I challenge you to take a closer look at your family’s particular rules and regulations. Is there a clear understanding of the ‘why’ behind them? Are your children learning to honor others in all situations?
“…we do not direct our conduct toward others based on how valuable they are to us but on how beloved they are to God. Our kindness is a gesture we make on His behalf.” (Growing Kids God’s Way)
Blessings, my friends. Until next time…Bon Appetit!