Putting The Fun Back Into Abiding By The Rules
by Linda Milo
Family rules are for everyone in the family. The rules you establish for your family's benefit are the single most important aspect of helping your child learn right from wrong. The purpose of family rules is established so that both parents and children have consistent guidelines that help each family member know what behavior is expected and what isn't expected. Family rules are there to encourage a sense of responsibility for each person's behavior and it also helps a family get along well with each other.
Family rules teaches your child what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Family rules are important because everyone in the family has rights. They have the right to be listened to, to be treated with respect, to state their viewpoints, and to live in a world free from violence. Family rules help the family have equal rights and input into how the family operates.
Often parents believe children need rules, but they don't. Children quickly see the injustice when parents are able to do something, but the child gets punished for the same action. You'll hear children say, "that's not fair," or 'how come you can do it, and I can't?" These are valid concerns because your child knows you can't explain away these injustices by just saying, "Because I said so." Parents who seek to control their child sometimes say, "Always do as you are told." This statement truly only reflects the parents' inadequacy and authoritarian feelings. Children then learn not to take responsibility for themselves, not to think for themselves, and often blame others for their mistakes and actions.
Infants are too young to understand family rules, but by the time your child is two years old, your child understands good from bad, can use words to express how they think and feel, and can contribute to establishing the rules. Two year olds are also capable of following family rules.
Here are five ways to establish rules for your family:
1. Everyone should participate. Gather your family around the kitchen table. Suggest to your family that since everyone lives under the same roof, they might as well have rules that apply to everyone.
2. Make a list of rules desired. Encourage each family member to share a list of behaviors they feel are a problem. Then talk freely about the issues your family should work on. No blaming or fault finding, just gather ideas to get started. Then on a large piece of paper, create a list of rules for the behaviors you would like to see, instead of the behaviors that now exist. The written list should have two columns - What To Do and What Not To Do.
3. Keep the rules simple and very specific. For example, "no running in the house" is too vague because what if there's a fire - certainly everyone should run out of the house. Instead be very specific by stating this rule: No playing (football, kickball, baseball) in the house. Play (football, kickball, baseball) in the yard. Now you've stated What Not To Do and What To Do. For every "what not to do," there has to be a "what to do." If your child is always shouting throughout the house, the rule should be, No yelling and screaming. Speak more quietly. Allow your child to yell and shout in his own room with the door closed. This will help your child get out his frustrations, without harming another family member. This is the way to substitute what has been going on, with what you really want to go on inside your home.
4. Create a consequence and reward for each rule. Rules are best kept when there is a consequence attached to the action. When your child chooses to misbehave, then there should be some form of discipline to follow. When your child works at correcting his behavior, then a satisfying reward should be given. The rules can only have meaning when your family understands that discipline and rewards are what makes the rules more meaningful.
5. Limit Family Rules to five rules to start. Five rules is a very good place to start. This short list of rules will help your child remember the rules and practice them daily.
After your family starts to pay attention to the Family Rules set up and you notice that the behavior is no longer a problem, drop the rule and add new rules. Gather your family around the kitchen table and have a "rule dropping" party. Tell your family members that even though a rule is being dropped, it doesn't mean the rule is no longer important. It just means that the rule is not needed anymore because the behavior is no longer a family problem. Whenever a new problem behavior appears, have another family meeting and start from Family Rules #1 above. In a very short time your family will share a deeper bond of understanding and hopefully, will realize that having Family Rules actually benefits each family member.
About the Author
Linda Milo, The Parent-Child Connection Coach, specializes in helping mothers and fathers turn their parenting challenges into a more livable, more workable, and more enjoyable family life. Her FREE better parenting newsletter covers specific, proven, and immediately usable methods for overcoming the most common parenting challenges. Visit
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