The Golden Rule

Posts 04

Halloween is coming up and excitement is in the air at my house.  Costumes have been ordered/shopped for/made.  (Not made by me, but the 12-year-old is very creative.) The fake spider webs are adorning the bushes outside, and the kids are dreaming about their soon-to-be cache of candy.  Oh, the candy…the candy is their favorite part!  They are actually pretty smart about it.  They get home and dump it all out on the kitchen table and then the trading begins.  It’s an interesting exercise in negotiation.  That being said, their motives are generally selfish.  It has involved parental supervision over the years, especially when they were younger.  The older ones were not above making unfair trades with the little ones.  “But mom, she AGREED to give me 10 pieces of candy for one lollipop!”  We had a discussion about the golden rule: a reminder to treat others as you want to be treated.  This ancient wisdom can be found in scripture in Matthew 7:12. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”


The golden rule seems so straightforward and yet kids can have a hard time following it.  This is where natural consequences come in (also known as reap what you sow).  My children and I lived with my parents back in 2010.  The older girls were in first and second grade.  It was during this time that my oldest developed an annoying habit.  She loved to scare her sister.  This typically involved hiding behind a door and jumping out and yelling, “BOO!” at her perpetually unsuspecting sibling. The scared first-grader would cry and complain. The second-grader would be reprimanded to be nice.  And on it went like a jukebox song on repeat.


I tried appealing to her better nature.  I tried time-outs for not following the rules.  I tried verbal discipline.  The lure of seeing her sister’s scared reaction was too strong to let any of those things get in the way of her good time.  What happened next was so great that my family laughs about it to this day.  The first grader had had enough of this nonsense and decided to give the older one a dose of her own medicine.  The young one hid downstairs.  She was exceedingly patient.  She bided her time with the instinct of a lion. The older one had been in and out of the room repeatedly and had not seen her. When the older one had absolutely no idea she wasn’t alone, the younger jumped out and yelled “Rah!” as the elder walked past the hiding place.


I knew what happened when I heard the oldest child’s piercing scream.  Her little feet came pounding up the stairs and she rounded the corner looking as scared as I had ever seen her.  Her face was flushed and she had tears streaming down her rosy cheeks. She was visibly trembling.  “She SCARED me!” My mom had been party to this ongoing saga.  We were both sitting on the couch when the oldest came upstairs hysterically tattling on her younger sister.  My mom and I both struggled to keep our faces straight.  I very calmly asked my daughter what had happened.  I then asked her, “How does that feel when someone jumps out and scares you?”  Finally, the wheels in her head started turning.  She agreed that it wasn’t very fun to be on the receiving end of that behavior.  Natural consequences are a good teacher.  I did mildly reprimand the first-grader for scaring the daylights out of her sister. But let’s face it…. the older one totally earned it!



My sister’s elementary aged boys recently had the same lesson.  The older boy is typically the more gentle and sensitive one.  The younger is that kid with the gleam of mischief in his eye that tells adults that he will be a handful.  They are both great kids, but they act as boys tend to do. The younger one was pestering his older brother endlessly.  The older brother had done everything right: he used his words and asked for his brother to stop, and when that repeatedly didn’t work, the he retreated to his bedroom. The younger one was undeterred. He trespassed into the bedroom and continued to bother the older brother.  He must have been really good at it, because the normally peaceable older one finally hit his limit and threw a punch!  And his aim was true.  My sister then had the task of disciplining both of the boys for their actions.  I don’t remember if she put them in the corner or grounded them, but I remember what she told them.  “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”  Natural consequences.


Treat others the way you would like to be treated.  Life would be nicer if everyone followed that guideline. Children are not the only ones who haven’t mastered this yet.  Would you like an example?  Watch some TV coverage of Black Friday shopping.  It seems like there is always an incidence of violence somewhere in a Walmart or a Best Buy or a Target.  It’s like grown-ups fighting over Halloween candy but without a parent to referee.  Selfish interests flare and behavior goes downhill.   We would all do well to remember the scripture James 3: 17-18.  “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”


Children need consequences for making wrong choices.  Sometimes nature steps in and administers the consequence.  Oftentimes though, that is a job left for parents.  It can be hard to figure out when to step in and provide guidance and when to let kids fail.  I’m guessing that we all know a helicopter parent.  Well-meaning but not always effective in the long term. I get a lot of practice with this right now as I have 2 sixth-graders this year.  Didn’t study for the test?  Get a bad grade.  Forgot to turn in the field trip form?  You might not get to go.  Actions have consequences.  That being said, I am willing to let them fail at routine things.  They will learn from that.  I would intervene with subject matter that is above their ability to handle.  They are still children, not just short adults.


The flip side of this story is that natural consequences are often good.  Practice kindness and people want to sit by you at lunch.  Put forth honest behavior and be deemed trustworthy. Have a good work ethic with your studies and make good grades.  “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12.  It’s wonderful when natural consequences underscore the whole lesson of reap what you sow.  Sometimes the reward is concrete, like a good test grade.  Sometimes the consequence of kindness is receiving kindness in return.  My 15-year-old is great at getting shy little kids to smile back at her.  I love watching her light up when she earns a grin from a toddler who is strapped into a shopping cart seat.

Kindness begets kindness. It’s like the kudzu of behavior…if you don’t cut it out, it will just take over.  This is a good thing.  The golden rule is timeless for a reason.  People desire to be treated with kindness and respect.  May we all go forth as good examples, and may we all benefit from receiving the kindness of others, especially when we need it the most.

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  1. I love it and the children are so typical and yet unique in their way of communicating. Obviously, there is never a dull moment in your house. I enjoy all your writings.

  2. Dina Garcia says:

    Loved this so beautifully expressed.
    Something we know ,but a great reminder.
    Thank you!

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