I was a teacher before I was a parent, so you’d expect that I’d have this whole discipline/ behavior management thing figured out, right? Nope. The lines get blurry when they’re your own children. We’ve tried various techniques with varying results which has often left me wondering: what are the desired behaviors? What do we most want our children to portray? Well, that answer is actually pretty easy: loving God and loving others.
Guess what? Those are the exact desired behaviors that God established a few thousand years ago. It’s a shame I didn’t consider that first…
Our infinitely merciful Father reminded his wayward Israelite children, ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself’ (Exodus 19:4). He craved fellowship with his children, and he brought them out of their slavery to spend time with them. So desirous of communion was he that he wanted them to understand the way to make relationships last. God gave his children clear, simply stated instructions on how to live harmoniously with him and with each other. If followed, then these ten rules of friendship could guarantee relational strength and growth.
The primary rules taught the Israelite children how to commune with God, their father, our father: Hold him in highest regard, as he is the giver and sustainer of life. Don’t allow any object to become greater than he in your mind or actions. Respect his name, his power, and his authority. Set aside uninterrupted, specific time to commune with him. In short, show God(and those around you) that he is your primary object of devotion. (Exodus 20:1-11)
The succeeding tenets taught about maintaining healthy relationships with others: Respect the lives, names, and authority of parents. Be helpful, not harmful. Be thankful, not jealous. Be truthful, not dishonest. In short, show others that they are worthwhile, significant people. (Exodus 20:12-17)
Hmmm…well that makes establishing limits for my children a lot simpler. Do their behaviors show adoration for God and appreciation for others? Appropriate. Do their behaviors dishonor God or degrade others? Not acceptable.
If the Ten Commandments are used as a filter for our actions, then we really will maintain the relationships with God and those around us…the way he intended, the way he desires.