What Rules and Rituals Should You Teach Your Kids? (Part 1)
One of the hidden secrets to wise parenting is to instruct your children through rituals. A ritual is a system that informs us about how we are to behave in certain situations. Everyone lives based upon systems that they picked up from their parents or developed over time. If you have the right system (ritual), then you will be successful at that part of life. Rituals tell us what to do and what not to do, and they eliminate so much anger and rebellion during the teen years if used consistently and correctly. Parents don't often think about this but they need to instill into a child all the systems for healthy and successful living. Here is how we go to bed. Here is what we do when we wake up. Here is how we eat dinner. Here is how we act when at a dinner party. Here is how we go to the bathroom. Here is how we get ready for school or work. Here is how we handle our money. Here is how we greet one another. Here is how we have a discussion when we are mad at the other person. Every interaction is a system of steps and can be learned. The reason why we are nervous or even fearful when we are doing something for the first time is we haven't learned the system for handling that new assignment.
There have been for centuries rituals that have allowed parents to communicate to their children all kinds of key information and morality. I have recently become aware of how many of the crucial rituals for parents are disappearing, and with them, the ability to raise children well. There is no longer any consistent way that children are taught to get up in the morning. There is no longer any consistent eating time or activities during the eating time. There is no consistent way to go to bed. There are fewer consistent habits communicated about personal hygiene. It is incumbent upon our parents to instruct us in the crucial rituals for a successful life. More and more parents themselves do not know the key rituals, so they cannot pass on what they do not know.
In Deuteronomy 6:5-7, God instructs parents to drill the truths of The Ten Commandments into their children through regular rituals.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."
We all have these rituals, but they are often unexamined and not helpful. As a parent, you are the one who decides what a particular ritual looks like to your young children. You can change a ritual or add to a ritual. If you do not teach a ritual, you will deprive your child of the steps for that part of their life, and they will most likely invent their own system that will be incomplete or wrong, because they do not know what to do. It is in many of these rituals that so much other teaching, training, and love can be communicated. Now, it is also true that many of you parents do not know what a given ritual should include. There are lots of ways of learning about how to do the basic rituals well by:
Asking regular people, who have raised successful children, what they did specifically in the following areas.
Reading parenting books that detail these parts of raising kids.
Asking people you know if you can watch them go through these rituals and times with their kids.
As a child grows, there are rituals that need to be repeated over and over again:
Personal hygiene rituals
Waking up rituals
Eating out rituals
There are many, many rituals I want to cover, but for today, I will cover two. Part 2 of this post will cover the others:
A child needs a routine for going to bed. In fact, all of us do. We cannot just stop doing one activity, lie down, and fall asleep. Children need to know how to go to bed and that the routine needs them to start about an hour before they want to be asleep. They need to have a consistent and clean place where they will sleep. They would need to clean up their room before they go to sleep. They need to get into their bed clothing. Some families shower and bathe at night, so that could be added to this routine. They need to brush and floss their teeth. They need to gather with their parents for a recap of the day with a focus on what was positive. They need to pray and be prayed over. They need to be given something to think about as they fall asleep, like a story, or words of love and encouragement, and/or a Scripture verse.
This ritual can change somewhat when the children reach the teen years, as they may need some more independence from their parents' participation in their bedtime rituals. I would suggest that you not let them listen to music that is rebellious, hate-filled, or loud as your children go to bed, as this puts these messages in their subconscious and they live them out the next day. During the teen years, your children need to talk with their parents if their parents will really listen at the times when the teens want to talk. I found those to be late at night between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. It was during those times that I learned the most about what my kids were going through and was able to help them the most.
Children do not know how to eat properly, and their parents must teach them. We must teach them how to eat with silverware. We must teach them how to eat slowly and make the meal last longer. We must teach them how to let other people talk during a meal. We must teach them how to enter into other people's conversations and not change the subject to what we want to talk about. We must teach them the value of getting together each day and sharing. During dinner, we can give a spiritual lesson and establish the value of God in our life through prayer and discussions about various issues in the wider world.
I'll cover more rituals next time in part 2 of this article. I hope you'll join me and also hope you find this helpful for teaching your kids to grow towards independence. I look forward to interacting with you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how God is working in and through your life.
In His service,
Four Keys to a Great Family
Audio Podcast by Gil Stieglitz
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