Several years ago, when our children were small and we were just beginning this parenting journey, I came across this quote from Charles Swindoll, “Building the relationship is more important than rules of control.” With plenty of need for “rules of control” in a family of seven, I had to mull this idea over for a minute or two. I concluded at the time that maybe the need for a relationship was as necessary as the need for rules, but surely not more important. But I was wrong.
As life with a growing family evolved, I came to agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Swindoll. Building a relationship is more important than rules of control. Rules are of course necessary. But over time, rules will change. Rules will slowly lighten up as the kids get older. And eventually, rules will go away and those rules we were so focused on will become irrelevant as our adult children leave home.
But the relationship? It lasts a lifetime. And it starts with assuring your children that you love them. It says to your kids, “I love you, I love you, I love you. I will always love you. You cannot do anything that would cause me to withhold my love.” Does this love need to be balanced with control? Sure. Our kids need to know that we are in charge. That we are the adults. That we know what is best for them. But that control needs to be wrapped in a giant dose of warmth and love that is palpable to our children.
I have observed that when building a relationship is paramount, something very interesting happens in the mind of a child regarding the rules. Rules are no longer rules for rules sake. Rules are no longer part of the power struggle for control. Instead, the rules just become a natural part of our family identity, woven into the fabric of this is who the Lehmans are. Rather than points of contention, the rules become part of what makes us who we are, part of what brings us together as a unified family.
Let me encourage you as you gather with your family this Christmas. Celebrate and build on the relationship you have with your children. If this connection has been lacking in your family, Christmas can be more of a challenge than a joy. But don’t live in the past. Make the effort to restore, build up, and embrace all the relationships in your family. Affirm the strengths that each one brings to the mix in your family. And celebrate Jesus, the One who redeems the challenges of our past and empowers us to walk in the newness of His life in us. Merry Christmas.