Monday, June 13, 2011

On Breaking Rules {Creatively}

There I was sitting in a potting class. The instructor teaching the rules for achieving the best results in creating a potted plant. She talked about planting a combination of thrillers (tall), fillers (mounding), and spillers (trailing), starting with the thrillers in the center and working out. She then proceeded to plant a pot as an example and, oddly enough, put a spiller in a filler domain. When questioned she stated something that I was inclined to write down, “Learn to do things by the rules, then start breaking them – creatively.”

 With four children, this sounded like a good motto for parenting!

Since our first born seven years ago, my husband and I have sought to provide structure, routine, and consistency with our children in order to form good habits and harmony within the home.

For instance, we have a rule that when we go to the grocery store if it is not on the list we don’t buy it. My children understand that rule well and rarely ask for something impromptu at the store.  Another example may be that nap/quiet time is sacred time at our house, as it allows me a small window of much needed time for myself. When it comes to this time of the day, the older two children know that they are expected to play in their rooms quietly while the younger two nap.

These practices, and others, have been working for our family now for seven years. However, with each child, I’ve learned something more valuable than rules. I've recognized that the value of relationship far out-weighs holding fast a rule.

What about the importance of consistency? On what basis would I think to throw out a rule?

Even Jesus esteemed relationship over rules. We see it in the way Jesus taught – always through relationship rather than dictatorship. We see it when the disciples reprimanded the children and Jesus said, “Let the children come…” (Mark 10:14) We see it with the Samaritan woman at the well, in a time when Jews did not associate with Samaritans and women were not spoken to directly by men and Jesus approached the woman. (John 4:7) We see it when Jesus healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath, though the Pharisees chastised Him for not resting on the Sabbath. (Luke 13:10) But, ultimately, we see it in the New Covenant versus the Old Covenant, where it is not the law that is most important to the Christian faith, but it is grace through a relationship with Jesus.

As Christians, we still live under laws and rules to keep us safe and protected, but only through that relationship with Christ do we understand our faith and cultivate a desire to obey.

In the same way, rules are necessary to keep our children safe and to {hopefully} achieve the best results in raising respectable adults, but only through our relationship with them will our instruction begin to take root.

So now, as a parent, my motto is to set a good foundation - lay the ground rules; keep a framework - and then start breaking rules – creatively! If I want a moment with just one child, I might have to allow one to stay up late to read extra stories together, let one crawl into bed with me during quiet time, or treat one to m&m's if it is just us at the grocery store.  I want all the cherished moments I can get with each one of my children and sometimes that will just mean a broken rule for a cherished memory.

#50-#75 of thanks to God for

rules meant to be broken
cultivating relationship
His sovereignty
first fruits
teachable moments
snuggles with early risers
invitation to "play"
little hands to help plant flowers
(and little hands to help make a mess of the dirt)
children extending hearts to orphans
pushing through the blah days
grace in the moments
mercy - new every morning
taking "a walk for life"
children's pace
accomplishing summer projects
a night out with my man
ice cream in the park (with him)
celebrating Father's Day a week early (because he deserves it!)
the discoveries of a precious one-year-old
the delight of swinging for the first time
jumping eight feet to the ever endearing, all-boy 2 1/2 year-old
the wonder

working my way to One Thousand Gifts and beyond of gratitude and linking up with Multitudes on Mondays at Holy Experience, Sol Deo Gloria at Finding Heaven, and Homemaker By Choice.


  1. Excellent truths, good advice! Don't you love when Jesus gives aha moments that connect through all of life!

  2. Love that thought... break those rules creatively! Such a great list. Pushing through the blah days. That is truly a gift! Grace in the moments... beautiful. Yay for a night out with your man! :)

  3. I think you work through a very difficult subject -- especially for those of us that tend to operate more in the black and white instead of the gray.

  4. Love the advice. Such a balanced perspective on a really challenging issue. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great advice, Theresa. Sometimes I can get too focused on the rules instead of the relationship (especially with my kiddos). So, this is a good reminder for me.

  6. I tell my writing students that. Learn to write by the rules then break them creatively.

    Children are happy when they know their boundaries. Instead of making them unhappy as many parents think, it actually fosters happiness.

    So enjoyed this.

  7. Thank you all for your comments! I know this idea is tricky when speaking of our precious children. Pamela, you are right. Children need and want those boundaries. The key word in breaking a rule here or there is "creatively." I feel that is where the art is in parenting. The Holy Spirit...grace in the moments. The hardest part is - there is no formula. Jen, you are right. It is not a science. That is a hard one to sell. Praying through this one for clarity (in posting and for readers)in a somewhat backward idea!

  8. I love this saying . . . it allows for the flexibilty in parenting that I enjoyed when raising our daughters. It matches my personality. Orderly, safe boundaries, but lots of creative breaking the rules at the right time.


  9. I'm in the middle of a {hard} teachable moment - good to see it on your list - and know I'm not alone in the world. What ever you meant it as, it 's food for my heart!

  10. I think this is the balance that I am consistently looking for--rules in the context of relationship. This post was wonderful. :)

  11. I enjoyed this post. It reminded me that some days it's ok to break the rules and live a little. Thanks so much!

  12. The foundation is crucial, isn't it? And when the relationship is preeminent, the rules just become part of the framework -- they're not the center of attention. I think sometimes the rules fool us into thinking that we're in charge, when it's really all up to One who is greater.

  13. I'm loving the feedback. Thank you.

  14. Wow...what a great post! Love the thought process and I have to say I am also learning the same thing (with our 4 boys)although I wouldn't be able to articulate it so well. Thank you for sharing!

  15. Love that thought about the value of relationship outweighing the restriction of rules. Great thoughts :)

  16. Great advice! The relationship is so much more than rules. WE don't need to allow small rules to be the deal-breaker on a relationship. Thank you so much for sharing this today!


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