They tell us:
how fast to drive,
what time to put your children to bed,
how many calories to eat,
how much to pay in taxes,
how to balance your budget,
what is acceptable behavior at school,
what time to arrive at work,
how to participate in sporting events,
what not to do at the swimming pool,
and many useful more things too numerous to count.
The bad: following rules won’t make you acceptable to God.
There is a problem with rules. They lack the power to draw you and your children closer to Christ! If your parenting is primarily about keeping rules, you will actually drive your children from Christ and provoke them to anger. Paul says exactly this in Colossians 2:23 where he warns that rules are of no value in restraining sinful, fleshly desires. If you rely on rules Paul says that you will irritate, aggravate, embitter your children (Colossians 3:21).
Satan’s deceitful goal is to make parents think they are following Christ when they rely on rules. In reality, when this happens, parents are following Satan’s plan for the spiritual destruction of their children! No one can earn their acceptance before God.
On the one hand rules are essential for safely navigating the waters of everyday life. But on the other hand relying on these same rules to engage in spiritual warfare results in disaster and defeat!
The ugly: rules encourage hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
Paul tells you and your children to clothe yourselves with Christ, not rules. When rules dominate relational bitterness emerges. Yes, rules are essential. But, no, rules are not what makes you or your children acceptable to God. None of us as parents want God to judge us on the basis of how well we follow rules. But far too often, children are made to think that their goodness depends on how well they keep your rules! Point your children to Christ. You are acceptable before God not because you have had a good day of rule keeping. You are acceptable because Jesus died for your sins. Your children should not think they are acceptable to you because of how well they keep your rules. This is ugly!
Graciously use rules to help keep your family safe and able to function well in life. But plead the mercy of gospel grace to walk before God. Rules won’t keep your children from selfishness or from the enslaving grip of pornography. Yes, you should teach your children about how to play together unselfishly. Yes, you should warn them about the evils of porn and monitor their online activity. But only the life-changing power of a relationship with Christ can lead to a changed heart that is not dominated by sensual indulgence.
Teach your children to love Jesus. That is what makes life good.