Household Rules

Dear Reader,

Here is a nice short quote from Charlotte Mason’s second volume, Parents and Children:

“Happy is the household that has few rules”                                   [p.18]

It is easy to make a lot of rules to try to establish peace in one’s household. But more rules can also lead to more complexity. The idea here is not that we do away with rules or standards but that in a happy home, few rules are necessary because children know the standard of behavior that is expected of them. There is no reason to have lists like: “no biting, no kicking, no hitting, no stomping on your sister’s nose, . . .”  Instead there is  a standard which is understood that covers all these situations.

Of course, in early years more must be done to instill this standard in the children. But over time, they should know what is expected of them without being told every little iota.

This is, I think, much the way the law of God works. His people have gotten in trouble over the millenia when they have not understood this. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day thought that the list of rules was the law, and they didn’t understand that the law is more comprehensive than any list could be. The lists God has given in various ages were for our benefit when we were like small children who need simple commands. But as we, His people, mature we are supposed to realize that it is not all about specific do’s and don’ts. This is why Jesus expands upon the Ten Commandments:

” ‘You have heard that it was said to those of old,  “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable  to judgment.” But I say to you that  everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable  to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!’ will be liable to  the hell of fire . . .  You have heard that it was said,  “You shall not commit adultery.”But I say to you that  everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.'”      [Matthew 5:21-28; ESV]

He was not giving anything new but trying to  show them that the law goes beyond what they had thought. The Ten Commandments were one summary of the law. A better one is even briefer:

” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And  a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend  all the Law and the Prophets.’ ”

[Matthew 22:37-40; ESV]

Of course, this was not new; it was also present in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 6:5). The law given to Moses was boiled down to a list of rules that could be written on stone tablets. But when we truly understand the whole law of God it is because it is written on our hearts (Jer. 31:33). It is a standard of holiness. Any list of rules will fail to capture the whole of it. But because of our sinful nature and our lack of understanding we require these lists to show us our sin and point us in the right direction.

So too as our children grow up, our household rules need not be specified one by one. We can expect them to understand something of our family standard which hopefully is itself a reflection of the law of God. What starts out as a list of rules –don’t hit, don’t bite, share your legos–  becomes something briefer and yet more comprehensive. And then perhaps a happier household will result as well.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by laurke on July 8, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Absolutely! My son understands that its God, then others, then self. That is our rule #1. However, we have foster kids coming and going, so I have the need to keep things spelled out in great detail, and recently redid our rules. Here was our first attempt at posted rules:
    and here is the latest:


    • Thanks for sharing, Laurke. I think your rules blend specifics and general principles very well. We could use less of the outdoor voices and rough play around here.


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