As discussed in The Importance of Structure, we humans need appropriate structure for productivity and to help keep negative habits from running rampant. This holds true in a variety of settings from businesses to families to classrooms. In fact, creating structure where none exists often serves to undo long-standing poor behavior.
My youngest son (now 12) provides a perfect example of this truth. For 8 years of his life, he had no structure. He moved from house to house (and often hotel to hotel), always around different people except for his older half-sister. School was optional. At some point, as his birth mother became increasingly absent, his behavior went from undisciplined to unruly.
Yet, over the past almost four years, as we applied the advice of a wise adoption case worker to provide consistency, our son is now a responsible young man who loves to serve at church and cares about his grades. He now reads above his grade level, and he is no longer classified as a special education student.
The advice to be consistent with our son really revolved around providing structure. For starters, he simply needed to know that the basics of life would stay the say from having enough food to eat to where and when to sleep.
Essential Elements of Structure
While many elements exist for solid structure, several essential elements seem to rise to the top. From business success to raising godly kids to helping students achieve learning success, the essential elements of solid structure seem to always include consistency, organization and discipline.
Consistency provides security and safety that encourages stretching and trying new things. Organization gives a better chance of not only completing but finishing strong. And discipline, while usually resisted at the time, provides the learning necessary for growth.
When creating and maintaining structure, though, we must remember that too much structure can stifle. Overdoing structure results in attitude problems leading to disobedience and disrespect. Working to constantly maintain a balance within structure, changing with the seasons of life, is crucial for structure to produce positive results.
Like the essential elements of structure that rise to the top, there also seems to be certain positive results that consistently show up as well. To begin with, confidence comes when individuals overcome self-defeating habits in the safe environment of positive structure.
Security also results from solid structure because children, students and employees alike know what’s expected of them as well as what to expect from their performance.
Growth physically, mentally, spiritually and socially also takes place as confidence grows within a consistent and organized structure. Without this type of structure, we get stuck in ruts and negative habits simply because they are comfortable and change isn’t.
Structure for Sanity
I wish I could say that our focus on structure with our son came purely from a desire to simply do what was best for him. It did not. In fact, a large part of my motivation stemmed from wanting to stay sane. I needed the structure to keep my frustration from venturing into really unhealthy levels (well, staying there anyway… it got there plenty of times). I needed it to have a game plan that I desperately hoped would pay off.
Even though born out of self-serving motivations, my desire to create solid structure eventually turned into truly believing in its foundational ability to create consistently positive results.
DISCUSSION: Discuss your experience with structure. Also, what application regarding structure can you make to/with God’s Word?
For a slightly different take on the importance of structure, check out Does a Book Need Structure to Be Published? at The Write Practice. You may also be interested in reading Thinking About Structure, which sort of started this recent focus of mine on structure.