“What is the most important rule you can teach your children?”
Have you ever reflected on the rules that you have for your children? We make rules to keep our children safe from harm and away from negative influences. We use rules to limit their exposure to television, computers and other electronic gadgets. Rules are also used to build character and establish boundaries that we, as parents, hope our children will carry into adulthood. Yet it was Sophie who reminded me of the ultimate rule that Jesus provided for us – the Golden Rule.
Sophie is an avid reader and loves to draw. Earlier this week, I was preparing dinner and Sophie was at her easel, drawing and colouring furiously. Honestly I didn’t pay too much attention to her until she announced to me that she had finished.
She called her work of art “The Golden Rule.” I asked her where she got the idea from, because I was quite certain this was something that I had never talked to the kids about. Sophie replied that she had read it from her Berenstain Bears book last night in bed. Capitalizing on the moment, I asked her to explain what the Golden Rule was about. “It’s like being nice to other people, like the kids at school so that they will be nice to me and we can all play,” she said with enthusiasm. Sophie’s answer was concise and showed me that she understood the verse. There was something reassuring in her response.
On the weekend Simon had a friend over for a play date and Sophie had gone out for some mommy-daughter time. The boys spent the better part of an hour tearing apart the bedroom constructing a fort which became a dragon’s lair. Without asking, but with the best of intentions, Simon had used Sophie’s jewels (plastic diamonds, emeralds and rubies) to create a treasure horde; they planned to include her when she returned. Things didn’t go so well when Sophie came home. She was excited about what the boys had been doing but threw a temper tantrum when she discovered her jewels were being used. My attempts to explain and calm her down failed and soon Sophie found herself in time-out. Giving her a few minutes to gather her thoughts, I went to her room to talk. I began by asking her why she reacted so badly to the fact that the boys had used her jewels. Wrong question! I had only succeeded in firing her back up again. I saw the picture of the Golden Rule that she drew earlier and tried a new tack. “Sophie, do you remember the Golden Rule?” I asked. The look on her face already showed me that she knew where I was going. “Yes,” she said stubbornly. I pushed a bit more, “Is that how you would want someone to react to you in a similar situation?” “No daddy, it would make me sad,” she replied, then decided, “Ok, the boys can play with them, but I am going to ask them next time to ask me first.” The time-out was over and Sophie quickly when off to play dragons with the boys.
While there are other rules that are important in training our kids, is there any more important than Matthew 7:12? The commandment to “treat others as you want them to treat you,” is so simple to understand, but so difficult to do. How often do we balk at this? When someone wrongs us often our response is negative; we would rather “give that person a piece of our mind.” Yet, when we make a mistake or say something that is hurtful, we want that person to listen to our explanation or apology. The Golden Rule builds character. In order to follow it, you need to have self-control, humility, understanding, love and forgiveness. Aren’t these the qualities we want to encourage in our children? To be more consistent in my discipline with my children, I going to focus more on this verse, not only in correcting their behaviour but demonstrating it in my interactions others. It is one thing to point out the Golden Rule to my children; it is quite another, and arguably more powerful, to have them see me living it.