Q: With three young children in the house, I'm trying to create order by setting rules. But every time I turn around, it seems like I need to set a new rule. How many should I have?
Jim: There's much to be said for setting guidelines and boundaries; that helps everyone in the family. But it's also easy to overdo it.
I heard about one mom who finally decided to write her rules down. It took her days to remember them all, and she ended up with six full pages. She had close to a hundred rules, and several even had subpoints. She thought creating guidelines for almost every area of life would make it easier for her children to behave. Instead, she was making it harder.
Having too many rules sets children up for failure. When there are so many plates to keep spinning, they'll constantly feel defeated. Sooner or later, frustration will set in, and your children's behavior will get worse, not better.
Here's a tip for measuring if you have too many rules: If you can't keep track of all of the household standards, your children don't stand a chance of remembering them, either.
How many rules should you have? There's not a magic number, but it's best to limit yourself to only what your children can remember and handle at their age. Less is more for parents, too. It helps you focus on what truly matters to your child's well-being.
To some extent, many rules can simply be situational interpretations of the "Golden Rule," which can be paraphrased as: Treat other people the way you want to be treated yourself. Making that your overall household standard allows for adaptation to each individual scenario as it arises.
However many rules you end up with, just remember that too many can be counterproductive. But a reasonable number can guide your child toward personal growth and greater maturity.
Q: I've been married for eight years. My wife and I are trying to get back into the habit of regular "just us" dates. But we enjoy spending time with friends, too. How do we balance it all?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Married couples need to spend a lot of one-on-one time together. But you also need to surround yourselves with other couples who can positively influence your relationship and help strengthen it.
Your marriage is not an island. You need to interact with other couples -- to invest in their lives and for them to invest in yours. This is especially important because so many people live far away from members of their extended family and can't benefit from their influence. If you don't have family support, the influence of good friends is invaluable.
That's why it's so helpful to double date with other couples. There's no hard-and-fast rule for how often, but making one out of every four dates a double date is a pretty reasonable goal. If you date your spouse once a week (which I think is the optimum), that's one double date a month. But if you and your spouse only go out once a month, you'll still squeeze in three double dates a year. That may not sound like much, but don't underestimate the impact it can make.
Relationships with other couples can help keep your marriage healthy, but they'll be especially invaluable if your marriage hits a rough spot. During troubled times, couples tend to isolate. Friendships will give your marriage a strong shoulder to lean on and help you get through the painful times you're facing.
As individuals and as couples, we need the support and influence of others. For more ideas to help your marriage thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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