The two nonnegotiables in our house

Written by Sandra Stanley
Published on January 17, 2023

Key Verse: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV).

I’m the middle kiddo of three. Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of rules in our home. And it’s not because we were better-than-average children. We definitely were not. The reason we didn’t need a bunch of rules? My Marine Corps dad had a look that kept us all in line. 

Andy didn’t grow up with many rules either. In the ways that matter most, the atmosphere and expectations in his home were similar to those in mine. Our fathers shared a similar value system, a value system that could be summarized in one word. And that one word shaped the way we raised our children too. That word? Honor

Like our families before us, Andy and I didn’t create a whole bunch of rules either. We had only two hard-and-fast rules, two nonnegotiables. 

 1. Honor your mother.

2. Don’t tell a lie.

While I’m sure the centrality of honor doesn’t come as a surprise, you may wonder, Why just Mom? Why not honor everybody? I wondered the same thing at first. But Andy decided honoring me was a keystone rule.

Maybe you’re familiar with the concept of a keystone habit. In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes keystone habits as small behaviors with large ripple effects. A keystone habit has a cascading effect, and a keystone rule works the same way. It has a trickle-down effect. 

Honoring Mom cascaded to honoring Andy because he was the one who required it. Learning to honor one person set an expectation for how the kids were to honor one another as well as other adults. Honoring Mom required prioritizing what was important to Mom: kind words, a respectful tone, a tidy room (or at least make it look like you tried!).

This one rule saved us from having to make a bunch of other rules. And—this is important—it provided us with a relational why behind the what. We didn’t require our kids to make their beds because it was some sort of moral imperative handed down from above. It was a demonstration of respect for their mom.

Our second nonnegotiable was: Don’t tell a lie.

Why lying? Of all the offenses out there, why choose this one?

The reason lying made our top-two list is that lying breaks relationships. That’s the “why” we attached to this rule from the beginning. Lying breaks relationships, and we didn’t want our relationships with our children to be broken.

Andy and I knew this had to be a nonnegotiable for our family because honesty is foundational in relationships. We could correct bad behavior. We could handle disrespect. But lying? There are no relational work-arounds for that. It’s nearly impossible to maintain a relationship with someone who lies.  

And honesty is a muscle. Muscles get stronger with use. The more you coax your children to tell the truth when they’re young, the less you’ll have to threaten them when they’re older.

Those were our two long-standing rules. For all the years we had our children, those two covered just about every transgression that needed addressing. More importantly, they underscored and reinforced what was most important to us: mutually satisfying relationships.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me encourage and model honor in my home. I ask for your wisdom in our interactions. Give me a few special moments of joy today. And help me keep the end in mind when I’m running short on patience. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Your Turn: 

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV).

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9–11 NIV).

What are the hard-and-fast rules or nonnegotiables in your home? What is your foundational “why” behind your “what”? 

To understand the most important goal in parenting and learn the steps to pursue it, get a copy of Parenting: Getting It Right, by Andy and Sandra Stanley.

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Sandra Stanley

Sandra Stanley received her bachelor of science degree from Georgia Tech and master of arts from Dallas Theological Seminary. Sandra has a heart for foster kids and foster families, as she and Andy have been foster parents since 2010. Her ministry passion is promoting foster care in the local church. Much of her time these days is spent working on various writing projects and continuing her involvement with Fostering Together, the foster care initiative of North Point Ministries.

Follow Andy and Sandra Stanley on social @andy_stanley and @sandrawstanley. To understand the most important goal in parenting and to learn the steps to pursue it, get a copy of Parenting: Getting It Right, by Andy and Sandra Stanley. Or check out the six-session video study that will help you identify and embrace your “it.”

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