I think that sometimes it comes down to what we mean when we say different words. I use the words of insistence and expectations but I do not engage in power struggles. The words aren’t *controlling* to me, they are more about setting a standard. The standard in our home does not change–it is the same for every member of the home. What DOES change is the amount of assistance someone needs from another in order to meet the standard.
My husband and I have prayerfully determined what kind of home we want to have–the things we want to teach our children, the character we want to help develop, the courtesies we want to see exhibited, the relationships we want to develop, etc. This is what we insist on. This is our expectation. This is our standard.
We’re all works in progress and help really does mean help. If you’re not able to meet the standard today, I will fill in the gap. That is grace.
If you’re not able to satisfy the standard because of your age, I will assist you as you grow. If you can’t do it because you’re not feeling well, I step up my share of the carrying the load until you feel better. If you are rude to someone I will remind you of the standard and help you reach it (offering wording suggestions, comforting you until you can go and make things right, removing you until you can be respectful, etc).
And the beautiful thing about parenting in relationship is that when *I* am struggling to meet the standard my children come alongside me and help. There are times when I grouse at the kids only to be met with, “Mommy. You are angry. Can I comfort you?” Because we are a team it doesn’t matter who has to help whom, we do it together. And we hope to come as close to the standard each day and each moment of each day that we can.
So, I insist on courtesy. Some days the children can do this themselves. Some days I can. Some days I need to remind them of the standard, some days they need to remind me. Some days I need to help them reach it, some days they help me. And some days I need to fill in the gap for them and be the courteous one as I model and reinforce the standard, knowing that tomorrow we’ll get back on track.
When I say I insist on things I don’t mean that I make a demand and my children just jump to. I do mean that I am working to enforce a standard that doesn’t change and my children are aware of the standard and meet it to the best of their ability knowing that the expectation is there. One way I do this is by setting our standard through the use of principles. Principles are ways of guiding someone through life while providing guidelines for the moment. Here are some of ours:
- Love God and Love others
- Treat others the way you want to be treated
- We do not hurt with bodies or words
- Family gets our best or no one gets the rest
- Leaving successfully is part of coming again next time
- Do not make work for other people
When situations arise where a principle applies we go to it. This helps us all guide our choices and our actions and keeps us focused on relationship. After all, in our house, life is about relationships and things get done along the way.