Inconsistency in rules or inconsistency in privilege (having a favorite child who gets more or gets to do more) simply gives opportunity for resentment which will give way to mischief or strife down the road as children in their immaturity and simplified moral world might try to “re-balance” the scales of justice.  You most definitely want to maintain peace and civility between your children so that they can weather the difficulties of childhood and the challenges of getting along with someone that they see every day and live with.  But if you can keep the peace between them as they grow, they will be close friends once they reach the older teenage years.  Believe me, it can be done if you put in the effort.  It is working with our children.  They all get along and enjoy one another’s company.  We have allowed no roots of bitterness to take hold between them by our own unequal treatment of them.  Children are very attuned for these things and will notice when there is unequal treatment very quickly. 

If there is a reason for what appears to be unequal treatment at the time, and an equal gift or privilege is coming to the second child later one, it is good to point that out at the time so that they will know you love them equally and put a high value on their feelings, their well-being, and their self-esteem.  Moreover, if there is anything that children can pick up on quickly, hypocrisy is definitely one of those things they’ll notice.  So, parents should, as they say, “practice what they preach.”  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a good example is probably worth a million words.  The big moral principles of the household should apply to everyone, including the parents, and parents should be willing to admit fault when they have run afoul of the family rules.  There is no shame in admitting error.  It takes courage and dignity to confess to one’s own frailties and errors.  We all make mistakes.  The important point is what we do with the mistakes that are made. 

Our reaction to our own errors speak volumes of libraries, a loudspeaker, an amplifier, testifying that our moral values are true and that we are not just giving “lip service” to what we believe.  Parents should be completely open and honest with children, including willing confession when you’ve made a mistake.  Everyone makes mistakes, and when an adult in the house errs, it does not negate the importance of the rule, but rather, it opens up a teachable moment about complete honesty, humility, and the fact that everyone makes mistakes and must learn from time-to-time.  But the big moral principles of the household should be consistent and should apply to all rather than having one set of moral rules for children and a completely different set of moral rules for the adults in the family, or inconsistent/different moral rules among the children favoring one child over another creating an unjust situation which they will quickly recognize. 

Moreover, children will pick up on the situational irony of differing treatment or inconsistent application of rules very quickly, and they will conclude from those situations, regardless of what you say to try to cover up or explain away the situation, that there really aren’t any hard-and-fast rules, but rather morality can be made up as you go without any connection to higher moral principles (such as in the Bible).  Additionally, they will recognize the real morality behind these variable and inconsistent rules, which is the morality of power, the morality of “might makes right.”  Whoever is strongest gets to set the rules.  This is a dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest moral system.  Such a system quickly devolves into constant power struggles and bickering within and among family members and even between parents and children.  This is most definitely not a situation you want because it is complete and utter chaos.  It is moral anarchy.

More on this tomorrow.  I pray that God will grant you wisdom to discern what is right, wisdom to teach your children, and the power, wisdom, and courage to be a consistent role model to your children as well as to others all around you.  Being a good role model will bring glory to God as people will see that your beliefs are genuine, and this will give God opportunity to work on their hearts. 

 


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11/01/2016 3:53am

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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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