Does it honor God? Does it help others? These two simple questions can help you teach your kids values. Everything Jesus did, and everything found in the Old Testament law is summed up in these two questions.
Our church is doing a sermon series on Raising G-rated Kids in an R-rated World. Yesterday's sermon focused on teaching your kids values. Our pastor yesterday suggested that the best way to teach values to your kids, which is what this blog is all about, is to reduce all the rules you have to these two questions. That's what Jesus did in today's Memory Monday verse. In Matthew 22:37-39, he says "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Jesus took thousands of years of tradition and law and distilled them into two simple commands -- love God and love your neighbor. He kept the commands simple and easy to remember. And He based those commands on a value.
While rules are important and set limits for our kids, we need to follow Jesus' example and remember to focus on the values behind the rules. We need to know what the most important values are in our life and base the rules in our households on those values. As our children learn the values, we'll find that they need fewer rules.
If it sounds like I'm advocating that you have no rules, I'm not, but remember that if children only follow rules because they have to, they will just be rules. They won't learn anything from them and will just see them as restrictive. If you use the rules to teach values, eventually your children will rely on the value to guide their behavior. Use these ideas to set up rules in your home that reflect the values you want to teach.
- Sit down with your spouse and decide what big values you want to emphasize. Start with the two that Jesus taught in this verse. You may want to distill those values down into smaller chunks like respect for others, helping others, telling the truth, etc. Decide what rules you need to have in place to reflect those values. Try to keep your list of rules as short as possible, depending on the age of your kids. Younger kids will need more rules because they don't already have a grasp on the value. Remember, the goal of having rules is to teach children a value. If you have rules in your home that don't reflect a certain value, it might be time to examine why you have that rule and whether it's worth enforcing.
- Draw up a contract for your family. Have it clearly state the values in your home. It can be a simple document that simply lists the things you as a family value. For example, it might read something like this, "We, the Fairchild family, promise to: treat others with respect, honor our parents, refrain from lying, help others, play fairly, honor God and love each other." Have everyone sign the document and hang it somewhere where everyone can see it. When your kids break a rule based on a value in the contract, remind them of the action they agreed to in the contract. Having them sign the contract places responsibility for their actions on your kids and lets them know up front the values that your family thinks are important.
- Use the questions "Does it honor God? Does it help others?" frequently. When your children are trying to make choices or they have made a poor choice, use these questions to help them understand why certain behaviors are wrong. This takes the emphasis off of the rule they broke and puts it squarely on the underlying value you want them to learn.
As you learn this verse this week, don't forget to apply those questions to the things you are doing in your life. Do your actions honor God and help others? If they don't, you can talk until you're blue in the face about those values to your kids, but your own actions will undermine your teaching. Give your kids a good example to follow as you work to move from just enforcing rules to teaching them the values behind the rules.