This is the place where we are have documented the road we have walked in order to adopt our four children from Brazil and the road we are now on as a family. We are keenly aware that adopting is not just a process we've chosen to go through, but part of God's plan for us and for our children. May He be glorified through the process and through our family!

Friday, April 09, 2010

House Rules / Regras da Casa

Before we went down to Brazil last November, Kim and I talked a lot about "rules" for our family. We wanted to have rules for our children which were simple, easily remembered, and...well...Biblical! At that time, we started with only four rules which we laid down on day one: show respect, obey the first time, ask permission, and stick together.

Over the past five months as a family, we have talked about these four rules on and off, but recently we decided to formalize them, write them down, and post them in our house. With this formalization, we have the added two more rules to our original four, out of necessity, I suppose. (Even though I think they easily fall under "respect," this connection is a bit nuanced for a child, though, necessitating the extra rules!)

I'm posting, below, the rules as they appear on our little sheet, as well as some notes about each, based on how we think about them and talk about them with the kids. Scripture verses are from the New International Version (NIV) in English and the Nova Versão Internacional (NVI) in Portuguese.

House Rules / Regras da Casa
As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
Mas, eu e a minha família serviremos ao Senhor.
(Joshua/Josué 24:15)

Under the "House Rules" heading, we wrote this well-known verse from Joshua. We explained to the kids that, as a family, we are supposed to serve the Lord. After all, it was God who brought us together as a family. Our choice--our job--is to serve him every day. All of the rules that we have as a family come out of this attitude of service and gratitude to God.

Show Respect / Mostra Respeito
Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
Tratem a todos com o devido respeito: amem os irmãos, temam a Deus e honrem o rei.
(1 Peter/1 Pedro 2:17)

I think we really only have one rule in our house: respect. We told the kids that respect is really the most important of our rules, and that's why we always put it first. They are to respect us, we are to respect them, and we're all supposed to respect God.

When we explained this to them most recently, I mentioned the scripture from the Gospel where Jesus boils down all of the Judaic law into: love God and love your neighbor. I explained that love and respect are tied very closely in this context. For both love and respect, God always comes first, followed by our neighbors (by which we are really talking about everyone around us, from our family and friends, to the strangers we meet on the street).

Our "respect" rule is kind of like this scripture. Really, all of our other rules can be boiled down to something very simple: respect. If you understand respect, you understand all of the others regardless of their particular nuances. Did you disobey? Disrespect to parents. Did you hit your sister? Disrespect to sibling. Did you whine at your teacher? Disrespect authority. Oh, and by the way, all of these things disrespect God too! (Which is why after a time-out, all of the kids have to not only apologize, but ask God for forgiveness too.)

Obey the First Time / Obedece a Primeira Vez
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Filhos, obedeçam a seus pais em tudo, pois isso agrada ao Senhor.
(Colossians/Colossenses 3:20)

Sometimes we have trouble with obediance, not because the kids never do what we ask them to do, but because they do what we ask the second or third time. Many times, we don't even give them the grace of a second or third asking, and put them straight into time-out if they don't obey the first time. I once heard, I think from a friend, but I can't remember who, "to delay is to disobey." This little saying really keys into why it's important to insist that your children obey when asked the first time. Although I imagine some parents have a hard time following through (me included!), there really can be no argument about requiring and enforcing obedience. The Bible clearly states that children are commanded by God to obey their parents (both in the Colossians passage above and in Ephesians 6).

Ask Permission / Pede Permissão
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Peçam, e lhes será dado; busquem, e encontrarão; batam, e a porta lhes será aberta.
(Matthew/Mateus 7:7)

OK, so the Matthew 7:7 passage doesn't exactly have to do with asking permission, but I think it serves as a valuable illustration of the principle for the kids nonetheless. Sure, on the practical level, they need to ask permission so that they won't get sick eating Easter candy on the sly. But on the spiritual level, they need to ask permission because we are their parents, and they need to respect us. Asking us permission shows us respect and acknowledges that (below God, of course), we are the providers of their needs, wants, and desires. We told them that we don't insist on asking permission because we always want to say "no," but because we want to say "yes" as well! We insist on asking permission, probably more now than we always will. But especially after the miracle of adoption, it is important for them to learn, on a practical level, that we are really their parents and really making these decisions.

Stick Together / Fica Juntos
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
O Deus que concede perseverança e ânimo -lhes um espírito de unidade, segundo Cristo Jesus, para que com um coração e uma voz vocês glorifiquem ao Deus e Pai de nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo.
(Romans/Romanos 15:5-6)

This was a very important rule for practical reasons at the beginning. We were in a foreign country we'd never been to, speaking a language we weren't good at, going around a city we didn't know with kids we'd just met (but who God had planned for us for eternity, praise the Lord!). But with this new iteration of the rules, we've spiritualized it a bit to add some important Biblical depth to the rule. We're not just supposed to stick together as a family because it's easier to keep track of four kids in a crowded mall that way, but because God has graciously given us a "spirit of unity" when he planned this family an eternity ago. As a family, we should glorify the Lord with our hearts and minds as one!

Be Honest / Seja Honesto
The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.
O Senhor odeia os lábios mentirosos, mas se deleita com os que falam a verdade.
(Proverbs/Provérbios 12:22)

A recent addition. Seems like this should be pretty self-explanatory, but it's not! The verbal part about being honest is easy (and usually easily verifiable), but it's the other parts which are hard. The parts where pretending one thing to be deceptive is being dishonest. We're still working on this one, but again, the Bible is very clear: God hates lying!

Do Not Whine / Não se Reclama
Do everything without complaining or arguing.
Façam tudo sem queixas nem discussões.
(Philippians/Filipenses 2:14)

Another recent addition. I was actually wondering how to make are recently-required "no whining" rule Biblical. Until a good friend of mine said, "oh yeah, like Philippians 2:14!" Hallelujah for God's word! It certainly bears more weight when God says we should do something without whining than when our parents say it, yuck! This rule goes many times hand-in-hand with the obedience rule when we have to gently remind our kids of our expectations!

Reminders for Parents / Lembretes Para os Pais
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Instrua a criança segundo os objetivos que você tem para ela, e mesmo com o passar dos anos não se desviará deles.
(Proverbs/Provérbios 22:6)
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Pais, não irritem seus filhos; antes criem-nos segundo a instrução e o conselho do Senhor.
(Ephesians/Efésios 6:4)

The kids loved that there was a part for parents at the bottom of the new rule sheet! I explained to them that the first scripture was important because it was reminding us as parents why we need to be teaching them about God, Jesus, and Godly living now, so that when they are adults in charge of their own families, they will be able to lead their own family following the Lord's path.

Personally, I think the second scripture is one of the most important for Christian parents to remember. I'm sure that many parents would be quite comfortable telling their kids that God desires children to obey their parents (like in Colossians, or in the beginning of Ephesians 6), but they might be hesitant to point the finger at themselves by completing the thought in Ephesians 6. As much as our children have the Godly responsibility to obey us, God requires us, as parents, not to exasperate our children. I explained to the kids that this scripture reminds us as their parents that we need to stay patient with them, respectful of them, watching our tone when we ask them to do things or speak to them, etc. And why do we do this? Why are we supposed to be careful not to exasperate our children? Because instead we are supposed to focus bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. If we constantly exasperate them by our tone of voice or our lack of respect for each other or them, we are not being an example of God as our Father and Christ as our Savior. We are showing them something entirely different: that it is OK to be impatient with their children, to yell over little things, to discipline out of anger instead of love...

Parenting is hard. Christian parenting is even harder! But we know that God put our family together this way for a reason, and we try to do our best, with God's grace daily, to lead our family in God's will.

1 comment:

The Princess said...

Wow, James, that is beautiful. What wonderful rules for your precious family. It is a far cry from the house rule you grew up with: If the Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Seriously, it makes me ashamed that I wasn't better at bringing the spiritual into my own household, but proud that there must have been some little seed planted in your formative years that allows you to blossom in your faith and trust in God the way you do.

My favorite scripture regarding the children is: Grandchildren are the crown of the aged... (Prov.17:6)