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From the White House to the school house to your house, a clear definition can prevent a world of trouble. Even the highest office in the land could stand an occasional dictionary review (apparently they don’t teach the meaning of the word “is” in law school).
All joking aside, clear definitions do bring a certain peace and order.
In the Stahlmann house, “obedience” is defined as “immediately, cheerfully, and thoroughly.” I heard the definition nearly a decade ago from a homeschool mom with an army of kids – very well behaved kids, might I add.
When our kids were little, we spent a good amount of time defining each of the three attributes of obedience. Most of them understood “immediately” right off the bat, but “cheerfully” and “thoroughly” took some time.
Over the years, as I’ve shared our definition with other parents, “cheerfully” seems to have inspired the most raised eyebrows. “Kids can’t always be expected to be cheerful, can they?” When it comes to obeying orders, they sure can.
I’d say one of the most valuable lessons our kids can learn is that attitude is a choice. We can’t always control what happens in our life, but we can always choose our response. And although it can be difficult to choose a good attitude, a good attitude bears good fruit. (For a glimpse at how we recently confronted an attitude struggle in our family, check out Without Anger or Excuse.)
“Thoroughly” can be a tricky one. Some kids seem to come pre-wired with a dominant thoroughness gene, and others…well…don’t. I call them 80%ers – they always seem to think they’re finished about 80% through the job.
I have to admit, it does take some effort to teach the “thorough” part of obedience, because it means we parents have to be willing to follow-up (often again and again) until the job is 100% done. But we can’t expect what we’re not willing to inspect. The good news is that over time, our kids will learn to strive for excellence in all they do.
As they’re learning how to be thorough, it’s okay if they miss a few details, as long as they ask for an inspection before assuming they’re done, and they’re willing to make adjustments with a cheerful spirit.
When we catch our kids slipping in one area of obedience, we’ll ask, “What’s the definition of obedience?” and instantly they know what needs to be adjusted. That’s the power of a definition!
Another thing worthy of defining is your family rules. When a child misbehaves, you can point to the family rules and calmly say, “It says here there is no screaming allowed in our house, and you were screaming.”
Which leads to the next thing worthy of defining, and that’s the consequences for disobedience and misbehavior (breaking a family rule). Deciding ahead of time what the results will be creates an atmosphere of justice in your home. Your kids don’t feel wronged by discipline because the expectations of them were clear, as were the results of poor choices. They won’t enjoy it, of course, but they’ll know it’s fair, and fairness is especially important to young souls.
On a side note, a great principle to post in your home is “Good choices equal good results. Bad choices equal bad results.” Imagine the fruit our kids will produce if they arrive at adulthood understanding that they can always make a good choice and that many good choices, over time, will yield good results. It’s the biblical principle of reaping and sowing. Sow good seed and reap a good harvest.
Our oldest son has autism, and because communication is one of his greatest struggles, definitions are particularly important for him. When Griffyn clearly understands what is expected of him, and what the results will be for both good and bad choices, he has an easier time making good choices and accepting the consequences for bad ones.
Definitions create boundaries, and boundaries offer safety. Perhaps no one is more sensitive to that fact than our sweet Griffyn.
Stop by later in the week to read about the Power of the Three Question Correction, and the Power of Routines.
In the meantime, we’d love to love to hear about your family rules. Here’s a peak at ours.
Stahlmann Family Rules
- Obey mommy and daddy immediately, cheerfully and thoroughly!
- No spitting, hitting, kicking, pushing, snatching, throwing things, or hurting people or animals.
- No screaming in the house and no temper tantrums.
- Always treat each other with honor and respect.
- No playing with water in the house.
- Put things away when you are done using them.
- Take snacks only with permission and always eat at a table.
- No going outside without shoes or permission.
- Don’t interrupt when someone is talking.
- Always tell the truth!