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.