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Rules for Little Children

Posted by Douglas Twitchell on Dec 11, 2013
When trying to teach our one-year-old about things he is (and is not) allowed to do, we run into a couple problems. One is that, since he can't communicate except in grunts, waves, and "diddle-diddle" baby-talk, it's hard to know how well he understands what we're telling him. If we tell him not to stand on the sofa, does he understand what a "sofa" is? And does he understand what it means to "stand"?
The second problem is that he has not yet developed much impulse control, so if we inundate him with rules to follow, we will be constantly correcting him. There are only so many hours in a day, and we don't want to spend them all saying to Toby "We told you not to do that!"

So, as Toby is developing understanding and impulse control, we are careful to keep our instructions to him at a simple and minimal level. Most of the "dos and don'ts" we give him divide into two primary categories:

1. Instructions that are for his own benefit/safety. For example, we are strict about not letting Toby stand on the sofa, or take things out of the trash can, because the first activity could easily result in injury, and the second activity - well, let's face it - the trash can is not the most sanitary object in any home!

2. Instructions for the benefit/safety of those around him. For example, we have a diabetic cat, and if he eats "people food," he gets sick. Thus, we are strict about Toby not throwing his food on the floor.

There is a third category of "dos and don'ts" which we try not to delve into too deeply:

3. Instructions that are for our own convenience. For example, even though we don't let him get into the trash can, we have never told him that he's not allowed to unload the diaper bag all over the floor. There's nothing in there that's dangerous for him, and while it's a nuisance to repack the bag, we feel that there are more important "dos and don'ts" for him to learn first.

The goal in all of this is to have a set of rules that are not overwhelming for either Toby or us. Are we succeeding? I don't know, and perhaps it'll be a very long time before I do know. But as I thought about all of this, it occurred to me that what we're trying to do is to emulate our Heavenly Father in the way He gives commands to us.

1 John 5:3 says that "His commandments are not burdensome." Doesn't God do for us (perfectly) what we are trying (imperfectly) to do for Toby? God's commands are neither burdensome nor self-serving. His commandments to us fall - for the most part - into two basic categories: commands that are in our own best interest, and commands that are for the benefit of those around us.

If I can appreciate that my rules for Toby are reasonable, wise (hopefully!), and beneficial to our household, can I not trust that God's rules for me are even more reasonable, wise, and beneficial?

Where to Go from Here...

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