On November 11, 1995, as we were completing the bedtime ritual, three year old Jean-Luc was putting his toothbrush away in the wrong place. When I (Trish) said something to him about it, he said, “It’s my toothbrush, and I can make the rules for it.”
What a thing in him--desiring to rule and be in control.
“Well,” I thought, “he needs to rule something. I guess his toothbrush is a good place to start.”
It is fascinating to watch a child’s personality develop. Although Jean-Luc was the fifth child, he intrigued us because he acted as a typical first-born--always wanting to be in charge, always wanting to be the leader.
Jean-Luc was expressing a God-given mandate (Gen. 1:28) that he clearly felt at three years of age. Looking back at this from a parenting viewpoint, we see that learning to govern is an important concept to begin teaching our children even at a young age.
The first steps of governing for a child are accepting responsibility for his actions and for his things. He learns that doing good things brings good consequences and doing bad things brings bad consequences. He learns that caring for or neglecting your things also has consequences.
The next step of governing is self-governing--when he begins to rule himself to choose right over wrong and good over evil. As he develops discernment, he begins to choose the good over the mediocre, and eventually the best over the good.
The highest form of self-government is a willing submission to the will of Father God. Jesus stated that he only did what the Father was doing and said what the Father was saying; and all of this he did in the same manner as the Father (John 5:19, 12:49). This is the ongoing process of child training: helping our children to see the Lord and respond to His Spirit and His word willingly.
Now, back to the toothbrush. The sphere that children can govern while they are young and growing is their possessions--taking care of their things. It may begin with a toothbrush, but it grows to include a bed, a book, a toy, a room, a pet, a company, a house. Each of these things requires training from Mom or Dad. It will take time. It will take effort. They won’t always succeed. No one does.
Nevertheless, clear and consistent training while they are young will bring good habits as children get older. A procedure for each task will have to be done over and over again with your children. You are teaching them to “rule over” their things.
Jesus said learning to be faithful over a few things will bring rulership over much (Luke 16:10). Through this training process you are preparing them for life, and you are preparing them for increase.