How will you teach your children about freedom in family life?

To govern is to direct.  When a man and woman marry and start a family, they get to decide the direction in which they want their family to go.  Are they going to choose a culture of service?  Will education be a focus in their home?  Prosperity?  Self-Reliance?  How will they teach their children about freedom in family life and beyond?  After choosing the direction they want their family to follow, a couple then lays out guidelines that will help their family members choose a path in that direction.  These guidelines are what compose family government.

Principles that transcend home life

Guidelines, family rules, or even a family mission statement give all family members a framework of freedom within to work, learn, and grow.  For example, if a family uses the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament as their guidelines, the family will grow up with a culture of looking to God, respecting themselves and others, and treating others as each wants to be treated.  These are principles that transcend home life and can be incorporated in the business world, in future relationships, even in politics and leadership roles.  Compare the Commandments to the following family rules: Say your prayers, Check in with Mom and Dad, Don’t Hit, Don’t Steal, Be Truthful, Say You’re Sorry, Remember We Love You!  This seemingly simple list still encourages a child to respect other people and their property, to honor their parents, to remember their God, and to know of their own worth.  This list is based on principles that will serve a grown member of the family wherever life leads them.

How formal do I need to be?

Some families write a family mission statement or family manifesto that outlines the principles they all want to follow as a family.  These can help them as they work toward short-term and long-term goals and to keep their perspective in line with their values.  Other families don’t do anything that formal and the parents simply lead by example.  The example acts as a guide for the children who can ask, “What would mom or dad do?”  The parents also work and play with each child so that there is a relationship established.  When a child makes a mistake, the parent can correct them and remind them of the direction the mistake will take them and the direction the family wants to go.

A working example…

One of the most beautiful examples of this kind of example and correction can be seen in the story Little Britches by Ralph Moody.  Ralph adores his father and wants to be just like him.  Nightly they milk cows together and they also work together to put an addition on to their small farm house.  Eight year old Ralph looks forward to that time spent working with Father.  When Ralph decides to tell a lie to his mother so he can take their horse out to do a job, Father is able to correct him with only words.  Using the analogy of a man’s house as his character, Father explains that Ralph has been tearing boards off his house to burn and keep himself comfortable, but that he has been destroying the house with his actions.  Ralph knows the character of his father and doesn’t want to destroy his own, so he resolves to make better choices and be honest.

The family represents a form of government.

Whether your family is a couple with children, a single parent with one or more children, or you have adult children living at home, the family represents a form of government.  This government influences the individuals in the family because the home is a learning laboratory.  These influences serve to educate a person in self-government, leadership, service, and responsibility and accountability.  Parents provide guidance, training, and protection for their children.  Parental love and concern often make up for what an individual may lack at times in knowledge or skills as they progress to adulthood.

So what does this look like?

What does family government look like?  Mom and Dad meet weekly in an Executive Family Council meeting to look at the upcoming schedule, discuss the needs and/or concerns of each child, and prayerfully consider what they can do to support their children.  They also take time to examine together their own relationship and schedule time to nurture that, whether that is a date night, a weekend getaway, an appointment with a trusted advisor, or whatever they feel will help them build their relationship and keep it strong.  They then meet with each child in a Personal Mentor meeting and allow the child to explain how things are going, what his concerns might be, any triumphs she has had during the week, if he wants any special help.  Mom and Dad can review family rules, both if a child is having trouble following them or if he is doing especially well with a rule.  If one or both parents are away from the child for the majority of the week, they can schedule one-on-one time with that child to strengthen bonds of love.  When it comes to raising children, you need quality time and quantity time.  Family life that includes Executive Family Council meetings and Personal Mentor meetings can strengthen bonds between children and parents, as well as give everyone focus to move towards their individual and family goals.

Single parents can incorporate the Executive Family Council meeting, too.

This form of family government, weekly meetings where concerns and successes are discussed with each person, can serve the family and help them to continue to function during death or disability.  Children can continue to connect weekly for direction, can see that they are still a family, and to see opportunities where they can help out.  When parents make God a partner in their Executive Family Council meetings through prayer, the death of a spouse can be eased because God is still there in the meeting.  Single parents can incorporate the Executive Family Council meeting, too.  They can invite God to their weekly meeting while they ponder what each of their children and their family as a whole needs for that week and in the long term.  A single parent can also ask one of their own parents or a trusted advisor or mentor to participate with them weekly.  This could be a youth leader who sees the child in a different setting than the parent does and has a perspective that can serve both the child and the family.

Family government is how freedom is preserved and perpetuated.

The family really is the fundamental unit of society.  It also serves to perpetuate the race.  Without the protection of the family, a child may never reach adulthood.  Even if a person grows to maturity on their own, there are so many truths, lessons, and developments that would not be passed on that a person’s life would be a meager existence.  The importance of the family cannot be understated.  Family government is really how parents choose to pass on their knowledge, beliefs, and values to their children.  Family government is how freedom is preserved and perpetuated.  If we don’t teach principles of freedom in the family setting, children may never learn them.

Take the Challenge: What are the principles that you want to pass on in your family?  How are you going to teach them to your children?  Whether you want to post your family manifesto on the wall for the world to see or keep your family mission statement in your heart, take some time to write down your values and how they pertain to your family.  Write what you feel you need to share with your children to help them have freedom and to become their best and do the most with their lives.

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