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I believe it was Josh McDowell who said, "Rules without relationship leads to rebellion." I’m sure he was discussing parenting. If you are strict with your kids and don’t have their hearts, they’re likely to defy you. I think we can all think of families where this has been true. I see many, many families who don’t have real relationships with their kids because of busy schedules. But these days I don’t see all that many families with lots of rules. Most have given up on those, too, because they’re so time-consuming to enforce. The result seems to be the same.

I just shared with a group of parents (in the context of discussing teens and dating) that it will not matter what they say to their kids unless they really spend time enjoying one another. If your kids don’t feel close to you, like you really care, you may as well save your breath.

What I realized today is that this principle applies to more than just parenting. If we have rules in our marriage or friendships, but don’t have the relationship to sustain them, there’s going to be a reaction! Imagine, for example, that you haven’t been really encouraging your girlfriend. You haven’t taken time to call her or see her. You then tell her how upset you are that she didn’t send you a thank you card for the gift you gave her for her birthday six months ago. How’s that likely to go over?

We all have rules for how we think relationships should be done. Don’t tell your husband what I said about mine. Don’t call me after 9. I want a real, not emailed birthday card. It’s fine to have them! But if your relationship isn’t in a good place, it’s inadvisable to try and enforce them. Return to the activities that bring you closer. Shoot hoops with your son. Take your daughter shopping or vice versa! Go out for lunch and share some laughs with your girlfriend. Go for a walk with your husband. When someone loves you, they’re more likely to abide by your rules.

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