I love roller coasters. I love how my stomach clenches when I start to go over the rise and how the wind whooshes when I fly over.
But I don’t like emotional roller coasters.
Neither do our children.
Knowing what to expect helps family become a safe place.
One way to do that is to create family guidelines.
That’s not a long list of rules, or a chore chart. It’s not a one-sided list where everybody does what you say, and you do whatever you want.
It’s a short list of things that matter to your family, and that lets everyone in your family know what makes your family unique.
Yesterday you made a list of both the positive aspects of your family, as well as areas that needed a little work. Both of these are important as you create family guidelines.
Every family is different. In our family, it was important to be loyal to each other. To talk to each other with respect. To be a team.
So, our family guidelines started to shape like this:
The Eller Family
1. In the Eller family, we talk to each other with respect.
This didn’t mean that we couldn’t have fun, or be snarky (as long as it wasn’t rude or hurtful). It simply meant that our words matter. That we weigh them.
It also meant that this applied to all of us.
Not just the kids.
2. In the Eller family, we work as a team.
That meant that the lion’s share of work didn’t fall on mom, or one child, or that we just let it pile up.
Maybe I made supper, but we all pitched in to clean after supper.
It didn’t just apply to chores. We talked through decisions. Mom and dad did have a heavier role in this, but our kids’ thoughts and input mattered.
3. In the Eller family, we don’t lie to each other.
We wanted to be truth tellers. In this guideline, Richard and I needed to be intentional. We couldn’t set up a family system that made lying seem like the best option.
We told our children that telling the truth was vital. And that if they ever found themselves in a situation where they shouldn’t be, and they wanted out, that a truthful phone call to mom and dad would give them that option.
They weren’t stuck with a lie, or a bad situation, because they feared that telling the truth to mom or dad would get them in worse trouble than staying in that bad situation.
Maybe you don’t agree with this one. I can only tell you that it worked for our family. Later, when a young man joined our family for a couple of years, this guideline rescued him. It reformed his belief that telling the truth was the best option — always — even if meant that you had to admit you made a mistake.
There were more guidelines and they fit our family.
The kids knew what to expect, and so did we.
Here are a couple of guidelines for your guidelines. (Sorry! ♥)
- Make them reasonable.
“In this family we make all ‘A’s'” isn’t reasonable. It’s setting up at least one child for failure. It’s saying that you have to be perfect all the time.
You also make your consequences reasonable. It’s not about punishment. It’s about learning how to love each other, and be a family, well.
Everybody knows what to expect, and your children don’t have to guess what the rules are or if mom is going to be cool, calm, or have a meltdown.
- Don’t compare to other families.
Your family may have special needs. Or special circumstances that other families don’t face.
Your guidelines aren’t going to look mine, and that’s okay.
- Stick with them
Sure, you might have to change as you go, because you’re learning and growing as a family. But stick with the guidelines that matter to your family.
One of the worst things I could do is pretend that change is easy. It’s not. We continually learn from our mistakes as a family, but now that my children are grown I see that sticking with it ingrained it on their hearts.
“We are a team” plays out a hundred different ways and it’s just who we are.
If it gets hard, understand that you’re breaking some patterns. There’s going to be a learning curve until it feels natural.
That’s expected. Kevin Leman, a parenting speaker and author, says that “good parenting is the most inconvenient process on earth.”
But good parenting also helps you shape the beautiful human beings that God has placed in your care for a season, and helps you grow through the process.
I’m so proud of you, of all that you’re learning as a woman and as a mom.
Page 169 lists four things we learn as we throw out our “Good Mom” list. #4 is:
I will sometimes make mistakes and I will learn from them.
Q: As you begin to create family guidelines, how does leaving room for grace make this process less intimidating?
Q: Read pages 168-170 in The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future. What is a realistic guideline? What is an unrealistic guideline?