Susanna's House Rules

It seems that no one is a big fan of rules. I get that. Rules can feel constricting at times and breaking the rules almost always lands us in hot water. But, deep down we all know that rules are a good thing. For example, rules about stopping at stop signs, yielding to oncoming traffic, and driving on the right side of the road keep us from constant wrecks and pile-ups.

The same is true for house rules. As we manage our homes, we need to thoughtfully establish rules in order to avoid chaos and conflict. But this is easier said than done. Create too many rules, and our children feel overburdened and may be prone to rebellion later on. Create too few rules, and our children don’t learn how to cope well in the world, and they may be prone to rebellion later on. It’s a tough tightrope to walk.

As I’ve considered the rules for my own two small children, I’ve looked for guidance among other mothers. One of my mom heroes is Susanna Wesley, mother to John and Charles Wesley. By all accounts, Susanna was a strict mother. But for Susanna, the proof that her house rules worked is in the pudding.

Susanna’s son, John, was an 18th Century English preacher and theologian. Many came to know Christ through Wesley’s preaching, and he eventually ignited a movement that became the Methodist Church. John’s brother, Charles, also played a key role in the revival movement writing hymns like “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” and the Christmas classic, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” 

Where did Charles and Wesley learn the discipline needed to preach, write, study God’s Word, and pray for revival? From their momma, of course! Here’s a list of the house rules in the Wesley household, established by Susanna:

Sixteen Rules of Susanna Wesley

1. Eating between meals is not allowed.
2. Children are to be in bed by 8 p.m.
3. They are required to take medicine without complaining.
4. Subdue self-will in a child, and work together with God to save the child’s soul.
5. Teach a child to pray as soon as he can speak. 
6. Require all to be still during Family Worship.
7. Give them nothing that they cry for, and only that when asked for politely.
8. To prevent lying, punish no fault which is first confessed and repented of.
9. Never allow a sinful act to go unpunished.
10. Teach children to fear the rod.
11. Never punish a child twice for a single offense.
12. Comment on and reward good behavior.
13. Any attempt to please, even if poorly performed, should be commended.
14. Preserve property rights, even in the smallest matters.
15. Strictly observe all promises. 
16. Require no daughter to work before she can read well.

Susanna gives us a great pattern for our own house rules. She emphasized the importance of spiritual things and found the balance between firm rules and a loving atmosphere. It’s the same balance that God modeled for us when he handed down his own “house rules” in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Here’s an abbreviated version:

1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. Do not make or worship idols.
3. Do not take God’s name in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. Don’t murder.
7. Don’t commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Don’t lie about your neighbor.
10. Don’t covet what others have.

What is the result when we follow God’s house rules? Order, peace, and . . . God is honored! The same can be true if we thoughtfully create and enforce house rules in our homes patterned after the virtues and behaviors that are esteemed in God’s Word.

So . . . what are your house rules? If you don’t have any, call a family meeting and create some rules for your family together. Consider using the ten commandments as a jumping off point. How can you apply the heart behind these rules to the way you interact as a family? And don’t just make the rules all about what your kids can and cannot do. Follow Susanna’s example and throw some rules into the mix for how you as parents will relate to your kids.

Let’s brainstorm together how we can create and enforce rules in our own homes that reflect the heart of God. I’d love to hear your creative ideas for house rules and the specifics of how you’re teaching your children that rules are a good thing.

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About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

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