Dan Seaborn’s passion for encouraging families to love God and follow Jesus prompted his heart to start the ministry Winning At Home in 1995. But his actual credentials for writing about parenting and family are that Dan and his wife, Jane, have been married and doing life together for forty years, raising their four children and grandparenting seven. Let’s gather together to hear Dan share practical insights of how he and Jane came up with “Mom and Dad’s Rules of the Home” as he visits the farm’s table today…

Guest Post by Dan Seaborn

I was a youth pastor and family life pastor for ten years, so I had the benefit of watching lots of kids grow up before we ever got past the “childhood” stage with our own children.

As I watched teen after teen finish high school and launch into adulthood, I learned that vastly different parenting approaches all seemed to result in mature and well-adjusted teenagers. The converse of that was true as well: vastly different parenting approaches also seemed to result in immature teenagers who struggled to adjust and who struggled with discipline and making good decisions.

“Over the years, I saw that kids can grow up in very strict homes and turn out great—or not so great. That was true of very lenient homes as well.”

Over the years, I saw that kids can grow up in very strict homes and turn out great—or not so great. That was true of very lenient homes as well. I found that this was not the essential piece of the puzzle for raising children well.

That surprised me.

Growing up, I was always taught being stricter with your kids is best for your family.

My own home life wasn’t great, so I always suspected that wasn’t entirely true—and over the years, I have discovered that some beautiful things can come from thinking differently from many of the people around you.

Though that can be stretching and straining at times, it can be very productive in raising your children to have a biblical perspective on life and to be prepared for the world coming their way.

When our oldest kids were small, I started paying close attention to parenting styles. Both strict and lenient parents ended up with some great kids, so we knew there had to be more to the story than we had initially assumed.

To find out more about what those parents were doing to succeed, Jane and I identified three couples who we admired for raising mature and well-adjusted teens and young adults and we took them out for dinner and talked with them about what they valued as parents.

We wanted their insights because we saw that their kids were growing up to love the Lord; they were mature and in a good place (Proverbs 19:20).

To get a variety of perspectives, we chose one couple who had firm rules and standards, one that had very few rules for their kids, and one that was somewhere in the middle.

“Surprisingly, all three had common threads, such as the importance of treating people kindly, the importance of faith, and the importance of the parents setting the standards for the household.”

Surprisingly, all three had common threads, such as the importance of treating people kindly, the importance of faith, and the importance of the parents setting the standards for the household.

We didn’t just take those threads and use them as our new family rules. Afterward, Jane and I spent time praying and listening to God about what the rules and expectations would look like in our home. We ended up with five things we called “Mom and Dad’s Rules of the Home.” We printed and framed them. Although all our kids are grown and out of the house, we still have the original copy. The design is dated and it’s obvious that we created the file in a word processing program twenty-plus years ago. But while the design and layout are very much relics of the past, the rules themselves still hold up.

I’m not going to share those rules with you here. If I did, you’d be tempted to try to replicate what Jane and I used. But I am encouraging you to look at parents of kids about ten to fifteen years older than yours whom you admire. Talk with those parents and work on putting together your own list!

If you’re a single parent, this can be particularly beneficial: You’re facing trials and tribulations that many people won’t ever face, or even understand. It will also be helpful for you to get perspectives from other adults, some of whom might be wired more like your kids than you are!

If you like this idea but are struggling to think of what you would ask, here are a few questions to help you start:

  • What do you wish you had handled differently?
  • Which of your rules are you most glad you prioritized?
  • Did you have any rules that you eventually abandoned because you no longer saw much value in them?
  • What do we need to prepare ourselves for that you didn’t see coming? What caught you most off guard?
  • Did you have some rules that worked perfectly with one of your kids but failed spectacularly with another?
  • When you didn’t agree on an approach, how did parenting strain your marriage? How did you handle it?

“There is no “formula” that will guarantee your kids grow up to follow the path you hope they will.”

Now, I want to offer a few disclaimers and cautions:

First of all, there is no “formula” that will guarantee your kids grow up to follow the path you hope they will. Your job is to teach them truth and the right values and morals. But just like everyone else, our kids have the ability to make their own choices (Proverbs 1:8, 9).

We all hope and pray that they will grow up to love and serve the Lord, but there is no step-by-step way to ensure that happens.

Parenting isn’t as simple as making rules and sitting back as you watch your children and teens joyfully follow them.

Kids are very good at testing boundaries and can be absolutely dogged in working to find out exactly where the line is that you won’t allow them to cross. Just know that even if you come up with the perfect set of rules (which I don’t think actually exists), you will still run into issues. I mention that only because I don’t want you to discard your rules a few months into the process because you feel like they’re not working!

Ultimately, making rules is a whole different deal than enforcing rules.

If you’re having a hard time implementing rules in your home, I would strongly encourage you to seek out a counselor who works with children or adolescents.

Many counselors work exclusively with families who are going through these types of growing pains, and it’s helpful to know you’re not alone and that bumps in the road don’t mean you’re doing something “wrong.”

Parenting is broken people raising broken people.

And Jesus, our “Wounded Healer”, is always most drawn to the broken, to bring a hope that truly heals.

Dan Seaborn, M.A., is the founder and president of Winning At Home, an organization that supports marriages and families. Dan uses humor, practical illustrations, and real-life examples to teach others how to win at home. In his newest book, Winning at Home: Tackling the Topics that Confuse Kids and Scare Parents, Dan addresses the myriad of hard-hitting topics that are often not addressed from the church pulpit for parents who are trying to raise children from a faith-based perspective

Parents need tools to help them navigate the pressures of raising children in the twenty-first century, and author, pastor, and speaker Dan Seaborn, in partnership with his team at Winning At Home, is offering answers. So bring your questions with you into these pages, where you’ll discover a wealth of wisdom and resources to help you navigate the challenges of twenty-first-century parenting. It’s time to turn your losses around and start winning at home.

[ Our humble thanks to Salem Books for their partnership in today’s devotion ]