When parents enforce rules, kids cry, “unfair,” protesting that parents are curbing their fun and free expression. But although they never want to admit it, the limits of rules fosters their sense of safety and security, because they know that someone cares enough to draw a line before they go too far and hurt themselves. Christian parents can explain to their children that just as there are family rules to keep everyone safe, God has rules also. God’s rules for kids keep them from hurting each other and help them tell right from wrong so they can know how to please God.
The Ten Commandments can seem like an imposing list of dos and don’ts with a lot of big words and concepts that some parents aren’t exactly comfortable discussing with young children. The commands can be simplified into kid language though with a list like, “I’m your only God. Don’t worship idols. Don’t use God’s name like a bad word. Take time to go to church and worship God. Obey and respect your parents. Don’t kill people. Stay married. Don’t steal. Tell the truth. Don’t wish for things other people have.” Set to music or illustrated through narrative stories, kids soon grasp the basic ideas behind God’s rules.
Like anyone else, of any age, children may wonder what God expects of them. Parents can read the story in Matthew 18:1-5 of Jesus’ calling a little child to Him and teaching His followers that while the culture of the time did not respect children, God sees a child’s simple love, faith and trust in Him and it pleases Him. Jesus affirms in Matthew 22:34-40 that the greatest commandments are to making expressing love for God the most important thing you do and then to show love and kindness to others. So a parent who teaches her child to prioritize his relationship with God and to show love and compassion to others will be doing well to help him obey God’s primary rule.
Honor and Obedience
The fifth commandment, pastors often point out, is the first commandment that comes with a promise attached: “Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time…” Exodus 20:12. The theme of children respecting and obeying their parents runs throughout the Bible, highlighting that not only that respected parents happier and less likely to impose unwanted consequences on their children, but also that respect for authority pleases God. A child’s relationship with her parents should reflect the attitude all believers are expected to have in relation to God the Father. Psalms and Proverbs extol the virtues of heeding parental wisdom. Ephesians 6:1-2 explicitly commands: “Children, obey your parents.”
Proverbs 4:7 teaches kids to seek after wisdom: “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.” In other words, if you want to be wise, start with admitting that you don’t know everything and seek the counsel and advice of those older and wiser than you. Be open to learning and applying the principles you are taught in your everyday life. The goal of wisdom is to make right choices and shun every form of evil. In 2 Timothy 2:22, the scripture warns: “Flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” The hard truth is that living by God’s rules flies in the face of popular culture, so kids have to make a conscious determination to choose God’s way and run away from the influences and inclinations that tempt them to sin. But they are not alone; they should seek out the company of like-minded people for support and encouragement.