Back in 2008 when Rob and I were married, we spent a lot of time discussing what we wanted our newly blended family to look like – in the present and in the future.
I read a ton of books about step families, we talked to a counsellor, we talked to friends and family, we researched, and we shared our own experiences of how we grew up, as well as how we had been parenting up until our marriage. We knew we wanted our own “parenting” strategy to be in line with our core values and beliefs, and we had a very specific vision for our family – that of being an eternal one.
As such, we implemented a system based on much research and prayer, where we would simply choose 6 “laws” that our family system would work on. Any “rules”, “consequences”, decisions or changes would always have to be in line with these laws.
We talked about the laws with the kids A LOT. In fact, they helped create the ones that we ended up choosing. They each had laminated cards that had the one word law written out on it, and then in the back the explanation of what it meant (and specifics to our family). I see the cards occasionally in some of their rooms still.
We reviewed them every week and the kids knew very clearly what the consequences were of breaking them. Most of the consequences weren’t specifics per se (if you do this, then this will happen), it was more things like “if you go without asking, the next time the answer will be no”, kind of thing. It was a system that worked nicely. There was a law that pretty much covered every challenge we encountered.
As the kids got older, I think we drifted away from focusing on these laws. We stopped reviewing them. The issues changed and because they were written on laminated cards, it almost seemed babyish to use them. Besides, as your kids get older and their needs change, aren’t your rules supposed to change to accommodate their quest for freedom and independence??
As the kids have gotten older, lots has changed. We started to accommodate certain changes, but felt like we were losing our ground. The fact that our kids all have another house and other parent also seemed to complicate the matter. Consistently we heard about the differences in the other house and how the kids had “options” of what they could do – depending on the house. As a parent, this is a very threatening thing to hear. You almost start feeling like if you don’t give in to what your child wants, then your child can simply choose the other house to live in. That’s not a way to live as a family, and it certainly is not the backdrop you want for your parenting decisions.
So for the past year, we have been living this struggle; not really parenting how we want to parent. Watching some of our kids get license for freedom too early without responsibility. Being helpless to implement consequences and watch as self destructive and “easier behaviour” take over. Dealing with being told that we were being unreasonable, too strict, not flexible, and a whole other slew of things. Our rules and expectations were optional, and if we want to continue to have relationships with some of our teenagers, then we need to just go with the flow and become spectators to whatever they choose to do.
Amidst all this conflict, I remembered our family laws. I pulled them out and re-read each one.
As I read them, my heart was touched and I felt it confirmed to me that nothing had changed – or needed to change. These laws are eternal laws. RESPECT, HONESTY, ORDER, OBEDIENCE, ASKING, and PEACE.
Sure, the issues with kids may change, how they break those laws may change, the consequences that they get may change, but those laws are the ones we choose to live by, and that is not going to change in our home.
Upon review of each law, it was clear to me that every issue we had been faced with recently, could easily be dealt with by sticking to our laws. There was no point in arguing technicalities and minutia of specific behaviour. No point in coming up with specific, elaborate or tailored made consequences. No point in worrying about what is happening in the other house and how everything is presented and perceived in the other house. No point spending hours and hours trying to renegotiate, explain or defend our parenting views, decisions and choices. Because they are based on these laws. And these laws are eternal in our eyes. For a 5 year old. For a 15year old. For a 25 year old. For a 45 year old. For a 65 year old. For an 85 year old. They are for the children, siblings, parents, spouses and every relationship in between. They are for when we live together, or when we live apart. They provide us with the foundation and footing that we need; it may not be the foundation and footing that we want – (which is especially hard for teenagers to understand) – but it is what we need.
RESPECT. HONESTY. ORDER. OBEDIENCE. ASKING. PEACE.
Combine that with our CDF values of CHARITY, DETERMINATION and FAIRNESS, and a hefty dose of prayer, support from friends, family, leaders and coaches, I feel empowered to face the battles that I know will come up over these tumultuous years….