Standards

Here are some samples of what we mean when we tell parents, “If your kids don’t love the standard, lower the standard.”

Let’s say you have 6 a.m. Bible time every morning, and the kids complain and moan about it. Lower the standard to the place where they will love it, even if it means moving it to the evening or changing it entirely. God doesn’t want us to chase our children away from the faith by teaching them to hate family devotions. We are to bring them up to love God, which is more important than loving family devotions. But if family devotions are a joy, they will love them too.

Or let’s say you have a family game night that the kids all dread. They would rather go be with their friends on Friday night, but they have to stay home and play Bible games. By all means, lower the standard. Let them invite all their friends over on Friday nights and make pizza and homemade ice cream.

When you lower the standard, Mom and Dad have to work harder. So, as my husband puts it, when you lower the standard for the kids, you are actually raising it for the parents. Once you have succeeded in getting the kids to love the standard, then you can raise it wisely and in increments. If 6 a.m. is too early for devotions, maybe you should move it to 7 and serve hot chocolate and donuts. You want them to LOVE family devotions. Let them take turns doing the reading or participating some way. This means you have to invest more thought and joy into it.

Of course you don’t adjust the standards that apply to the ten commandments. You can’t allow drunkenness because your kids don’t love the standard of sobriety. But there are a host of other areas where parents have more flexibility. If your seventeen-year-old daughter has not internalized your standards of modesty, it may be too late. You have lost your opportunity to help her love the standard. But it would be wiser to strike a compromise with her over the skirt length than to lose your daughter.

Here’s another example. We’ve been having Sabbath dinners on Saturday nights now for about fourteen years. All the kids and grandkids come and usually a few others, and we celebrate the coming Lord’s Day. I am constantly thinking about how to make it more fun for the parents and the grandkids. I don’t want it to drift into a “have to” rather than a “get to.” As our grandkids hit their teens (as the first just did a couple of weeks ago), our gathering must and will look different. I can’t continue to treat them like toddlers. This means Doug and I have to put our minds to work on what to do so they will continue to enjoy themselves. From time to time we have told our kids that they may feel free to bail and start doing their own Sabbath dinners any time they want. We don’t want them to ever feel obligated to show up. What a drag that would be.

When kids don’t internalize the standard, they will quickly ditch it when they get the chance. Time is short and you don’t want to miss your opportunities.

And, finally, Lizzie has a few things to add to this topic and how it applies to those little years, so look for a post from her on this same topic.

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11 Responses to “Standards”


  • I think the phrase “lower the standard” just grates, even though your explanation shows you’re using it in a completely acceptable way. “Lowering standards” is almost never meant in a good way, and I’m not even sure that “lowering” is what you mean here.

    How about “adjust the standard” or “soften the standard?” The latter especially carries the connotation of easing up a bit, which I think is what you intend, without so much of the connotation of actual moral relaxation. I do get the comparison between “high” and “low” especially with your 6:30 a.m. example — yes, expecting them to do devotions cheerfully at 6:30 a.m. is setting the bar higher than if you had it at a more comfortable time, but I think the problem with it is not that it’s high, but that it’s misaimed, or harsh. So that’s why I like “adjust” or “soften” better.

    I offer this not to nitpick or criticize your language, but because I think a lot of people probably react quickly and negatively to “lower the standard” as a piece of Christian parenting advice, and it might prevent your excellent advice from being heard. “WHAT? Is she CRAZY? Nancy says the solution to the problem of your kids having a problem with your standards is just to LOWER THEM? Why, all that stuff they say about the Wilsons must be RIGHT!!!! ” ;-)

    But I offer this humbly, as you are vastly my superior in age, experience, and wisdom, (well, okay, the age difference isn’t vast, but it’s significant) so I will gladly hear why I’m all wet. :-)

  • Great post Nancy and I agree with your thoughts pentamom.

  • This a perfect follow up to your previous post on teaching love of the standard. After reading it, I asked myself the question – How do I express that and what does training to love the standard look like? Thanks for the ideas and I appreciate you stating the “get to” instead of “have to”. I use this to check where my heart is on things…and the oreintation of the heart is the matter. Thank you.

  • Thank you for this explanation. I have heard you say “teach the kids to love the standards” but never really understood how to do this or what you meant by that. These little examples really help set the record straight for me. Thanks!

  • Thank you!! I have never understood what you meant by that. I really appreciate the examples. Feel free to write as much as you want on this subject! :)

  • THANKYOU! ‘Lowering the standard’ is a revolutionary thought for me, and endlessly helpful! I love that even the language you used grabs the attention of the reader, as ‘lowering the standard’ doesn’t at first glance sound like the kind of parenting advice we are used to hearing in reformed circles. I just love it! I desperately want my four boys to love family devotions, but even more to love Jesus, and my husband agreed that Saturday morning ‘donut devotions’ may help to do just that. Thank you for that encouragement and wisdom. The fruit that has come from your and Pastor Wilsons family and ministry always cause me to carefully consider heed your counsel. Thank you from a pastors wife in CA!

  • pentamom–how about “sweeten the standard?” And I vote we bring back to the center of discussions about wise parenting one of my favorite words–”winsomeness.” Come on, it has the word “win” (as in win your childrens’ hearts for Christ) right there in it!

  • Lowering the standard reminds me of teaching your child how to jump hurdles in a track event. According to certain standards, your child, at his size/height/age should be able to jump hurdles set at a certain height. But, for whatever reason, your child is just not getting those hurdles cleared when they go to jump it. So you lower the height, thus lowering the standard, until he has accomplished jumping those lower ones. Then you raise it accordingly to challenge and further train, eventually bringing them back up to the original standard. I don’t know if this matches up exactly with what Nancy said, but it is what I thought of when I first read it. : )

  • Ah, now it makes sense. Thank you for the explanation! Very helpful!

  • Alison, I thought of the same metaphor. You explained it better than I could have, though!

  • what an excellent post… I didn’t like family devotions growing up… mostly because of the hypocrisy I saw around me, I think – though I wouldn’t have articulated it that way at the time.

    I want my kids to love the Lord and the word and the best way I know to do that is by modeling it, not force feeding it :-)

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