Here are things that Tim and I have strived as a couple to keep in our home, in raising our boys, as we see best.
1) Telling the truth, at all times. No matter how big or small it may be, or important or insignificant, the truth is always best. There is no such thing as ‘half’ truth. It’s truth or it’s a lie. When we are approached with a possible lie, we give our boys one chance to tell the truth, and if they have to ponder about it, we remind them that truth doesn’t take time to remember or think about. It’s proven itself a good virtue in our house!
2) Eating all of your food on your plate. May seem silly, but dessert is scarce in this house, so we use fruit snacks, fruit and the occasional ice cream scoop to give ‘reward’ for those who finish all of their food. Our youngest guy can physically make himself ‘throw up’ the food he doesn’t like (he’s very strong willed, that one!) so if he doesn’t eat it or ‘throws it up’, he knows his other option is not to eat, period. I had this same rule, and it taught me that I can be as picky as I want to be (or choose to be!) This also saves Mom and Dad the embarrassment of public complaining or rejection of food when we are at someone else’s house. Old rule, new meaning.
3) ‘Please & Thank You’. Politeness is sometimes a hard thing to remember to use, but an excellent skill to master. I can’t tell you how many times people, in public places, have stopped, turned to me and said “I’ve never seen such polite boys. You don’t see that very often anymore”. It does me proud! Seeing my boys open doors for the elderly, quickly picking up cans that were dropped in the grocery isle by a worker, entertaining a crying child while standing in a long line, just delights my soul!
4) Prayer. Prayer is a very important and serious thing in our household. We have used the ‘fold your hands and close your eyes’ rule ever since I can remember with our boys. Tim and I had similar rules when we were growing up, and we have continued them because, a) folded hands keeps little busy hands from causing trouble or finding something else to do that distracts from talking with our Father, b) shutting our eyes also keep our sight from distractions and it helps to keep our focus on what we are doing. Whether it’s the boys praying or someone else praying, that is the rule. They are to be quiet and reverent. Tim and I also teach this by example, which is really the best way to teach ANYTHING!
5) Furniture is for sitting. This is a tough one. I wasn’t all for the ‘sitting rule’ until we bought new furniture and realized that if we wanted it to last longer than a year, we needed to have the ‘no shoes on the couch’ rule. I have been able to avoided a lot of cleaning due to this wonderful rule. It also helps when we go to someone else’s house, and see that their furniture is a LOT ‘nicer’ than ours . . in their young, little minds, it wouldn’t make any difference, because the rules are the applied everywhere we go.
Rules are often looked at as something that ‘takes the fun out of things’, but to Tim and I, we are teaching our kids how to survive in a world where everything isn’t just handed to them. They need these rules, guide lines and respect to help them later in life (and now, of course!). And, since we’ve established these rules early in their lives, they will never doubt, question or wonder what is expected of them, and that gives me a peace of mind.
My ‘adult’ rule book is the Bible. I use it to study, learn from and example out to my boys. We read it together, Tim does devotions with them and we study it often in our family. I teach my boys how important Scripture is and how it is my ‘Guide’, or (since my boys are really into pirates right now) my ‘Map’ on how to get where I need to be. What I need to do. Where I need to go. What needs to be taking over my thoughts and motives. It’s been a fun journey teaching these values and I hope that the Lord only makes Tim and I stronger as the boys mature and get older.