I was just talking to a mom last night. She was having the same struggle all of us have had or will have. She described her son’s behavior over the last several weeks. “He’s really been pushing my buttons,” she said. “When I asked him to clean his room, he wouldn’t. When I enforced the rules on screen time, he balked. When I refused to let him stay up late, he slammed the door to his room in protest.” Chaos, right? I started thinking to myself, “What do I do when my kids are driving me crazy?”
I didn’t ask this mom, but if her response was like mine so many times, she might have yelled, lost her temper, slammed a door of her own, or doled out an inappropriate punishment. I mean, after a full day of parenting, homeschooling, work, or errands, who wants to deal with crazy?
I have a book that is dog-eared to death, highlighted all over, and—quite frankly—tear-stained. It’s called Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof. There is a chapter called “Fight for the Heart.” It taught me that sometimes I can win the argument but lose the heart in the process.
But I want to win the battle when my kids are driving me crazy. Winning is the goal, right? Well, no, no it’s not.
Through Moses, God shows us there’s a clear connection between obeying and love. For years, Moses wrestled with the Israelites to obey all the laws and rules. But then, His tune changed. In Deuteronomy 6:5 He says, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” He started fighting for something more important than behaviors and rule-following. He was fighting for the hearts of those who followed Him.
So when creating order and peace in our homes, setting expectations and rules is very appropriate. But perhaps we can start by communicating in a way that values the relationship over the rules.
How do you do that? It starts with for not from. I’ll explain.
Here’s how to let love rule your home.
The most basic thing is to communicate what the rules are, why they exist, and what the consequences are when those expectations aren’t met. Do this in a calm moment. Have a normal conversation about it with your kids and even allow them to speak into the expectations before things get heated.
The truth is, rules and expectations are a way for us to tell our kids what we want for them. But what we often communicate accidentally is what we want from them. We say:
- You need to clean your room.
- You need to get in bed.
- You need to be home by a certain time.
But what we mean is what we want for them:
- It will help you in life if you keep your things tidy and organized.
- Getting an appropriate amount of rest will help you have a great day tomorrow.
- I want us to build trust with each other.
When our child breaks a rule or behaves inappropriately, it can immediately cause us parents to get angry. At that moment, we actually lose the opportunity to bring direction in a way that is based in relationship.
Take time to pause and let any anger or frustration diffuse, then talk with your child. Give them the “why” behind the “what” of the rules and expectations. Listen to their thoughts. And then, when you provide the consequences to their behavior—because that still must be done—you can do so with love and a hug.
As you do this consistently, I believe you’ll experience love-driven obedience from your kids. Love-driven obedience will outlive our children’s time in our homes. They will take that with them wherever they go. And it all begins by prioritizing the relationship over the rules when communicating!