In my previous article about parenting children with rules and rituals, I said that 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. In this article, we'll cover several rituals that hopefully will help you as you go along on this parenting journey.
In Jewish homes, one of the rituals around dinnertime was that the father was to instruct the children in the Ten Commandments and the Law every night before dinner. The wife was allowed to withhold dinner until this ritual was performed. When Solomon talks in Proverbs about the commands of the father, he is talking about this process that King David did with him. When Solomon says, "Do not forget my commandments," he is asking the child to remember when the father instructed their children in the Ten Commandments. It wasn't just God's laws; it was the father's instruction to the children.
One of the most destructive things I have recently seen is to have all sports practices scheduled during dinner time so that the family never gets to have meals together. Fight against this and find a way to have a meal together before or after practice or don't participate in that sport or that league.
Personal Hygiene Rituals
These rituals include how one cares for their teeth (brushing, flossing, cleaning, mouthwash, etc.), how one uses the restroom (wiping oneself, flushing the toilet), bathing /showering (how often, cleansing all parts of the body, soaps, etc.).
Waking up Rituals
A child needs to be taught and shown how to wake up well. What time should they wake up during the week? What time should they wake up on the weekend? What should they do upon first waking up? Ideas are to be thankful for three things, or remember and repeat a Scripture you read last night. What should a person do first when they get out of bed? Make the bed, use the rest room, shower and prepare for the day, sit and read quietly for a few minutes, go and greet their parents, put on their clothing for the day. These are all options for what to do when first getting out of bed. Do they eat with the family at breakfast? What time is that meal served? Parents have the ability to help their children develop powerful habits that will help their children all through their life.
What do children do in the morning before they have to leave for school and/or dad and/or mom go off to work? This can be a good time for chores. This can be a time for finishing homework. This can be a time for helping with the siblings. This can be a time for practicing an instrument. Parents get to decide what happens in this time and the children will see it as a ritual.
What happens when guest come over, either friends of the children or friends of their parents? There are certain things that children must be prepared to do differently when kid vs. adult guests come over. Also note that there are certain rituals that wouldn't change when guests come over.
Eating Out Rituals
What do the children do when the family goes out to eat? I remember having to practice eating slower and being willing to sit still an hour to get ready to go out with our children.
What are the rituals around greeting other adults? We required our children to greet adults who came to the home. We required that they call them Mr. or Mrs./Ms. to show respect to them.
What is different on Sunday? When does the family go to church? What are the systems around that process? Going to church is losing its status as a ritual and yet it is so important. It teaches that even parents have a boss. It teaches that learning keeps going no matter how old you are. It teaches relationships of an intergenerational nature are important. It teaches that God is important and first in our lives. It provides a chance to reinforce the biblical worldview.
Each evening in the typical house is different than during the day. It is a time of homework, games, fun, talking, projects, chores, and love. How will that be done in your house? Too often today it is a time of T.V. There are other things to do than just watch a program. Do you play a particular game on Tuesday? Do you go to church on Wednesday? Do you as a family all watch a program together on Thursday? What is the order of homework and fun? Some families have dinner, then a little fun, and then homework. Some families work on homework, then have dinner, then have a little fun. All of this time is up for grabs and the parents get to build a system into the child about what to do with this time so that the family is great and each person in the family is ready for the next day.
Usually in the middle of the week families do something different, and it is up to the parents what they want that to be. This can be going to church or school or to a hobby or all three. It may be a certain game or ritual with the parents. It could be going out to a particular restaurant before church on Wednesday night. Children and parents need to look forward to something in the middle of the week.
I can remember that I took each of my children on a date during the middle of the week. We went and did something together. Many times it didn't involve spending much money but it was time for me to spend an hour with that child that week. This was a great time.
Looking at this list of rituals may be overwhelming, but realize that these times will happen whether you plan them or not, so you can add new items to these arenas. When you do, you will watch your children adapt and build new success rituals into their lives. Use these times to talk with your children about how encouraged you are with them. Notice the things that they have done and are doing. Ask them to tell you about what they want to do. Listen to them as they tell you about their friends.
I hope you found this helpful for teaching your kids to grow towards independence and I encourage you to forward it on to other parents who would benefit from this series. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how you are doing and 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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