The 3 times rule

My wonderful husband; the only adult who got in there with the kids on the black plastic water-slide at family camp.

I wrote some time ago about the 10 times rule for children. Today it’s the 3 times rule for husbands. At an Easter conference for families and leaders in ministry, the wives got together for an informal chat about ways to support our husbands. There were many ideas bandied around, most of which I had heard before. But one was new to me and worth passing on. It is very simple; the first time your husband does something that irritates, grates, you dislike or simply don’t want him to do for practical reasons, say nothing. The second times he repeats the action, say nothing. After the third occasion it is time to raise the subject – at an appropriate time. More on that in a minute.

Let me give you an example. I like my house to be fairly tidy but don’t knock myself out about it. With 6 children I’ve had to face the reality that it will never look like a display home. However, when I have cleaned up and it is looking good, the first bit of mess or clutter that is dumped really bothers me. My husband arrived home to a spotless kitchen and dining area (rare I know) and proceeded to kick his shoes off underneath the bench before heading outside to play with the children. My immediate impulse was to tell him (politely) not to leave his shoes there please, with the fear that he might start doing it regularly. When I stopped to think about it I had to concede that he usually doesn’t leave his shoes there and that this was a one-off occurrence. With that in mind, I said nothing.

If however, he began to kick them off there day after day it would be time to raise the matter. Now to the next important point; how to raise it. With my personality type, I tend to confront immediately and efficiently and solve what I see as the problem straight away. It is in fact often wiser to wait for a moment when you are free from conflict, both calm and relaxed and you have had time to think through the words you will use and how to phrase the problem so as to not sound negative, angry or like a nit-picking, nagging wife.

It may be that it is time to praise some of the things you do like about what your husband does, before starting on the things you don’t like. Next time you catch yourself about to jump in with a negative, stop and think. Is this the third time? You’ll be surprised at how many things can be left to slide by without comment, leaving only those that you really do need to talk about. Your husband will appreciate it.

[9] It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
(Proverbs 21:9 ESV)

The “if…then” chart

From around the age of three it is important that children begin to understand the principles behind the behaviour we expect from them – the moral reason “why” of any given situation. This allows them to apply the principles to any and every situation they are facing, including those that are entirely new to them. As Christians, this moral reason should be based on the authority of scripture.

It was somewhat of a surprise to me to realise that while I know the right thing to do, I didn’t actually know the biblical reason why in some situations. Everything came back to obedience and respect. While these are important, there has to be a little more to it as our children grow. “Because Mummy said so” is a legitimate response, especially for the very young child, however children need more than that as they mature. Similarly, “because the bible says so” does not cut it for ever. Where does it say so and exactly what does it say?

I also find myself easily falling into the habit of nagging, reminding and scolding the children while not actually doing anything about the behaviours in the form of applying suitable consequences. Many times in the past when I have sat down and thought through what our problem areas are and applied consistent consequences (explaining clearly the moral or practical reasons why behind the rules) it has been a matter of days before those behaviours are no longer a problem. With a plan and consistent reinforcement it takes only days to eliminate behaviours that at times have been driving me nuts for months! Ideally my husband and I will sit down once a week to take stock, plan and work on our children’s moral development, character and behaviour together.

One tool we find helpful is the “If…then” chart. (Available from here or make your own.) Ours has space for a bible verse explaining the moral reason (or practical reason) behind the rule, a description of the behaviour we are working to eliminate and the consequence that will be given if the behaviour occurs. At the same time we work on the positive side of the character trait. It is no good telling children what not to do if they do not clearly understand what it is they should do.

I am also transferring each behaviour onto an A4 page and each child will illustrate the ones particularly applicable to themselves for display. This will help the non-readers to remember what we are working on. I used the book “Proverbs for Parenting”  to find a verse to back up each rule. The book has proverbs sorted into categories/topic areas relevant to parenting which makes it easy to find bible verses relating to a particular kind of behaviour.

We will focus on 2 or 3 behaviours per child that are problem areas for each of the eldest children (consequences will apply to all though) and add more once those problem areas have been significantly reduced. I am hoping to see some very positive changes across the next few days and weeks and I know I will be less frustrated because I have a plan of how to deal with the situations. I will be proactively parenting in these areas, rather than reactively parenting, which is always a better way to go!

The Sorting Out Prayer (Sibling conflict)

Product: Parents Arise Image

After using the “Children Arise” CD’s with my children for circle time I was interested in reading the story of how they came about in “Parents Arise” by Janine Target. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend having a look. (Here at Koorong or here at Growing Families) With the author’s permission, I am reproducing below just one of the ideas she presented in her book and I think it was worth purchasing it for this alone.

We have always had our children apologise (say “sorry”) for mistakes and accidents and ask for forgiveness for deliberate sins (acts of unkindness etc.) They are required to reconcile by making eye contact, naming the specific sin, asking for forgiveness (I’m sorry I spoke unkindly to you, will you forgive me?) and then hugging the offended person. (There is just something about physical contact that melts hearts and helps siblings to reconcile. Older children, especially boys, are required to shake hands.)

Once they have worked through this process, they spend some time praying about it and asking for God’s forgiveness and help for future events. Janine’s sorting out prayer takes this part of the process a couple of vital steps further and I will be introducing it as part of our family pattern for making things right with God and between family members from now on.

Here it is as it appears on page 102 of her book:

The Sorting Out Prayer

1. I forgive ……….. for…………

(Matthew 6:14,15)

2. Dear God please forgive ……….. for ………….

(Luke 23:34)

3. Please forgive me for getting angry.

(1 John 1:9)

4. Please take all the anger and upset out of me.

(1 John 1:9)

5. Please bless ………

(Luke 6:27, 28)

In Janine’s words; “It keeps us free from resentment, kept our forgiveness up to date, and it helped create an environment for strong and healthy emotional growth in each of our children.”