After a summer of “freedom” and relaxed rules, September’s return to school and schedules often poses a challenge for children. On top of that, 2021 has been filled with new restrictions and limits that are tough for everyone to comply with and comprehend.
As the pandemic drags on, kids are likely to have more questions about why they need to wear masks and why they can’t enjoy certain activities or venues that are temporarily shut down.
Although rules are set for our own good, following them isn’t always fun or easy. Because of sin, all humans rebel against authorities and against God. Children are no exception, as new parents quickly discover. From a surprisingly young age, little ones begin asserting their independence by pushing back against limits and saying “no!” Just as God deals with our rebellion out of love, he instructs parents to raise and discipline children lovingly. That approach molds them into followers of Jesus who strive to obey God and respect other people.
Rebellion takes different forms as children grow (see the next page), so you’ll need to adapt your approach to rule-setting and discipline. No matter your children’s age, however, one of the most important things you can do is pray for them—and for yourself in the vital role of parent. Thank Jesus for each of your children by name, and ask Jesus to work in their hearts and lives, giving them a strong desire to always follow God faithfully.
Use these strategies for dealing with rebellion as children grow:
Birth to 2 years: Accept that God gives even infants and toddlers unique temperaments. Provide lots of comfort, physical touch, and warmth.
3 to 4 years: Listen carefully, and respond to physical and emotional needs. Explore what upsets children. Model Jesus’ love through affection.
5 to 7 years: Offer choices and clear consequences for disobedience. Balance your growing demands with warmth and reason.
8 to 12 years: Be consistent. Express trust, and praise kids for jobs well done. When kids fall short, ask what they can do differently next time.
Here’s some great ideas to try at home:
Commandments 2.0 As a family, work to reword each of God’s Ten Commandments as a loving rule with positive purposes; for example, “Because I want you to be protected from religions that would mislead you, don’t worship any other god besides me.”
Walking with God Either trace one another’s feet on paper or make footprint impressions with plaster of Paris. As prints dry, read Joshua 22:5 (NIV) and discuss what it means to “walk in obedience” with God. Also talk about what it’s like to veer from God’s path—and how he brings us back to his ways.
Grace Abounds During family devotions about people in the Bible who rebelled, address not only the consequences each person faced but also God’s abundant grace. For example, King David paid a hefty price for sinning, but he asked for—and received—forgiveness.
Going God’s Way Beforehand, use tape to mark start and finish lines at opposite ends of a room. Share times you’ve done the opposite of what you should have done. Gather on the starting line and say: “See how fast you can get to the finish line—but you must crawl or crabwalk backward. Go!” Read John 1:35-40. Ask: “How was this game like or unlike following Jesus? When it’s tempting to do the opposite, how can we live God’s way?”
Rules Roulette Search online for outdated rules that were in communities and schools years ago—or that might still remain today. Share some funny rules with family. Then read Luke 16:17. Ask: “Why do rules exist? Why do they sometimes need to change? How does it feel to know that God’s rules will never change?”
Starting Over As a family, choose an item to draw on an Etch-A-Sketch. Every 60 seconds, pass the toy to someone else. When it returns to you, start drawing and say, “Oops, I messed up!” Shake the toy. Say: “Sometimes we mess up by not following God’s rules, but he lets us start over.” Read Luke 15:11-32. Discuss how the prodigal son rebelled against his father but got a second chance.