Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson

Relationship over Rules

Last week I confessed that in my relationship with my children I am a mean mom.

I think in very black and white terms. I am also a big proponent of holding children accountable for themselves and their actions.

Today I’d like to switch gears and talk a little bit about choosing relationship over rules. My pastor has talked about this concept a few times and I love it.

Choosing relationship over the rules is just another way of having mercy on our ourselves and our loved ones.

Since last week’s parenting post is what got me thinking about this week’s concept, I think we should discuss it under the framework of parenting, but I believe that this concept can and should apply to most of our relationships.

As I stated in last week’s post, I am a huge proponent of teaching our kids to take responsibility for themselves by not making excuses for them when they are under our roof.


….I promise I’m not going to contradict myself here (I least I am going to try very hard not to anyway)….

…sometimes being hard on them is a far less effective way of parenting than showing mercy.

Our kids have chores. If they don’t do their chores, they don’t get to do fun things. It is our way of teaching responsibility to them. But if we ALWAYS only choose to enforce the rule of “no fun til you’re done”, then we run the risk of raising stressed out, work-a-holics who won’t have any fun at all. So there are times that they can go do their fun thing even if their chores aren’t done. It isn’t often that that happens, but it does happen.

Another thing that I am continually learning is that our homes need to be environments in which our kids can mess up. Life does not come with a manual and the only way to learn it’s most valuable lessons is through experience.

We need to allow our relationships to be safe places for our children to experience the consequences of dumb decisions before too much is on the line.

For example, one time one of our children made a veh- he- ery poor choice and had a lot of life consequences because of it. Our initial response to their mistake was one of discipline, but in no time at all it was clear that discipline from their father and me was not at all what they needed. What they needed from us was a shoulder to cry on and a safe place to run while they sorted through life’s effects. Life was being harsh enough to ensure that they got the idea. But as hard as the consequences were for them, had they made that particular decision in the real world, they would have been so much worse.

While we watched our child sort through the mess, we saw that they began to flourish under mercy. They began to open to us about the difficulties they were facing. They stepped up to the plate and we grew closer as family and learned so much.

One of the most valuable lessons for me was the importance of mercy in any relationship. As I said, I think in terms of very black and white – right is right and wrong is wrong. It’s that simple. However, being the imperfect humans that we are, relationships cannot flourish in strictly black and white soil.

Especially the relationships that we share with our children.

Here is another example – we have a big policy of absolutely no disrespect or talking back to us. Like Z E R O tolerance. What we say goes, period.

On occasion, when we have said something that our children don’t agree with they can talk to us about it. As long as they keep their tone and their words respectful and conversational (meaning no whining or arguing), we will chat with them as long as they need us to. In these times of conversation, we bond and challenge one another to improve our communication skills. They have even changed our minds a time or two.

Now we could always choose the “what we say goes rule” in our relationship with them but where would that get us? We would have children who were unable to express themselves or children who had no respect for us and rebelled.

So all of this to say:

I genuinely believe that choosing our relationships over the rules is sometimes the most effective way of raising children.

I’m still finding the balance between the two. I’m not sure that there is one. I think that we need to feel things out and learn as we go. If I do find one, I’ll be sure and keep you in the loop! Only under one condition, though… I’m gonna need you to do the same for me. This parenting thing is hard and we gotta stick together!!


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