Why Do We Need Rules Anyway?
- Susan J. Knowles
- 2013 3 Mar
Mom and Dad often experience resistance from their children when they attempt to enforce rules they deem appropriate for them. Children typically are not willing participants in adhering to their parents’ rules. Especially since a consequence for disobeying the rules is often contrary to what the child wants. It is during these times of conflict that parents may feel their children are wondering, “why do we need rules anyway?”
Beginning in early childhood, children are often required by their parents to set good examples for their younger siblings. Children are constantly reminded not to “pick on" their little brothers or sisters, or to “behave” so that the younger children can learn to make good choices as well. Additionally, children are directed to “share” their toys with their siblings, usually to the chagrin of the child who thought the toy belonged solely to him or her.
Children are further reminded as they take their initial steps into kindergarten and on to elementary school that they should “be good” at school so that teachers will view them as “well-behaved.” Parents know from past experience that their children will suffer consequences if their behaviors are inappropriate. Later on, when teenagers begin dating, parents can often become "boring” by their repetitive reminders “not to get into trouble” while they are out of their parents’ sight.
Where did rules and consequences begin? Why is it so important to have rules in our lives?
Theological history points to the beginning of time following God’s creation of humans, Adam and Eve, for the answers of when rules and consequences began. Adam and Eve were told by God to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) but were forbidden to eat from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). It was this disobedience to God’s instructions when they ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree that led to long-term suffering and consequences for both Adam and Eve and every generation thereafter (Genesis 3:16-19).
Throughout the Bible, there are many references to rules that God deems important for humans to follow, and there are naturally occuring consequences for disobedience. You may recall the story of Jonah in the Old Testament. God directed Jonah to travel to Nineveh to help the city turn from its “wickedness.” However, Jonah defiantly refused to go and, instead, set sail for another city (Jonah 1:1-3). As a consequence, Jonah spent some time in the belly of a fish after being thrown overboard by his crew members. God was disciplining Jonah for his disobedience to His directions and allowed him to experience the consequences of his inappropriate choice. God, as our Father or parent, was teaching Jonah (and all of us) that rules are important and there is a reason why they should be followed.
What is the importance of God’s purpose in setting guidelines for us (His children) to follow? As a Christian, it is imperative to know that obedience to God is paramount in our walk with Him. Our parents kept us safe and focused on our path by the rules that they borrowed from Biblical principles. We may not have always appreciated these rules as children. However, the enforcement of these rules demonstrated our parents’ love for us and their belief that it was important to teach us the Biblical principles of right from wrong. Our parents wanted us to become healthy and productive individuals. In turn, we were able to strengthen our relationship with our parents through daily interactions with them. For children who don’t have parents or caregivers who spend adequate time teaching valuable principles, it is often difficult to form a strong parent-child bond. Optimum closeness with a parent requires daily “quality” time and participation together.
We will begin to form a greater closeness with God through our daily walk and obedience to His doctrines just as we did with our parents. He is our Father and like our parents, He will guide us by His Word, the Bible, which teaches us principles for healthy living. Daily time spent in God’s wisdom will enhance our ability to have a fulfilling personal relationship with our Heavenly Father! Your children will have the ability to experience this same relationship with God as you set the example for them through your parenting skills. So, the next time you may be wondering if your kids are asking themselves “why do we need rules anyway?” just smile and remember God has a really good reason!
Susan J. Calloway Knowles is a Licensed Christian Marriage & Family Therapist and former practicing Family Law Attorney. She is also a Christian music Songwriter. Susan’s songs can be found at www.worshipsong.com. Her website is www.susanknowles.com.
Publication date: March 15, 2013