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It’s a common experience for parents; the house is often falling into chaos no matter how hard you try to maintain order and discipline. So how is it that schools manage to get most children in line despite each of them being a terror at home? It’s Rules! While children don’t develop reasoning abilities until 5 or 7, they instinctively follow rules when enforced in the right manner. Therefore, to keep that circus in order at your place as a parent, you need to establish and enforce a simple list of rules for your home.
How Should Parents Set House Rules?
You will soon find out that writing down a list of rules and posting it on the fridge will not work, even on the first day. It’s essential to lay down a framework and think about how you can approach it. Here are some guidelines for setting up household rules:
1. Discuss with your partner
Whether you are setting up house rules for toddlers or older children discuss the goal of the rules clearly with your partner. What is it that you’re trying to accomplish with the rules? Are they general rules to raise the children or to set the house in order when dealing with a child who has behavioral problems? Have clear goals about these as the last thing you need are pointless rules.
2. Hold a family meeting
There’s nothing like a serious family meeting to highlight the seriousness of the situation especially when you have preschoolers or preteens. Get the family together and decide on the rules. Allow the children to pitch in, you might be surprised at how productive it can be.
3. It starts with teamwork
The family needs to run as a unit to get the machinery running. Team work is how you will respect each other’s space, opinions and actions in contributing to the household. A simple rule would be to ask permission before borrowing an item.
4. Keep it clear and concrete
Unclear goals and rules are just waiting to break and fall apart. Children need structure to thrive and while they claim to hate the rules they need it to keep things predictable and feel secure. A strong rule such as not missing out on chores will keep everybody in order.
5. Write it down
The success of implementing rules depends on how often they are reminded of it. Write down the rules on a sheet of paper and stick it to a prominent place such as the refrigerator’s door where it can be seen. For younger children you can make an illustration and hang it wherever necessary.
6. Compensate for different age groups
If you have children with significant age difference then you will have to adjust your rules to fit them and their stage of development. One example is bed time. You cannot send your 3 year old and your 10 year old to bed at the same time!
7. Set different rules for inside and outside the house
You may allow your kids to run inside your house and play with whatever toy they wish. However, when they visit grandma or a friend they cannot do the same. So have clear rules for discipline when outside.
8. Lead by example
If you don’t practice what you preach, the rules won’t stick. Your kids constantly watch and learn from your behavior. They would relax at the first hint that you do not strictly follow the rules in the first place.
9. Use Praise and Consequence
Praise is a great motivator that keeps children in line. On the other hand, appropriate consequences will also help enforce the rules of the house. Remember that praise works better, so make it matter.
10. Reevaluate rules when necessary
Sometimes the rules you’ve set might be holding something bigger and better back. In such instances, you could reevaluate and change to improve it.
Important House Rules for Kids
For a clear distinction, house rules for preschoolers can be grouped into a few broad categories as follows:
1. Rules centered on safety
These are most basic of rules that promote physical and emotional safety of your child. Some common examples are “No jumping on the furniture” or “Do not run into a busy street” or “Do not answer the door when mom is in the shower and nobody else is at home”. Along with laying down the rule, it’s essential to tell them what might happen if the rule is broken. Emotional safety rules include “Speak kindly and use kind words”. “Share your feelings and thoughts respectfully”. Emotional safety rules also helps children connect well with others.
2. Rules to build healthy habits
It goes without saying that healthy habits lay down the foundation to build discipline for more complicated tasks as a child grows older. To help them do their best, you need to get your children accustomed to a routine or a structure for the day. Some examples include “Brush your teeth before bed time”, “Drop all dirty clothes in the laundry basket” and “wash your hands and feet after outdoor playtime”. Healthy habits also reduce power struggles with your children because when they know that they got to arrange all the toys back in the basket after playtime or finish homework before dinner, they would know the consequences of misbehavior.
3. Rules centered on Morality
Morality plays a big role in shaping the type of person your child grows up to become. Therefore create rules that instill moral values in your children. The simplest ones of them include “Tell the truth” and “Apologize when you do wrong”. Morality also has a strong influence on how well they adhere to the rules set by you. Of course, your behavior matters a lot in setting an example for the children. Your kids grasp from what you do than what you preach, so your moral standards eventually trickle in to your kids.
4. Rules that build social skills
Social skills are absolutely essential for the healthy development of children and you need to have rules to teach them behavior that makes them socially desirable and acceptable by their peer group. If they have siblings the most fundamental rule is “share your toys with your brother” or “take turns to play the game” or “knock before you enter a closed door”. These rules should help them become socially acceptable and play games with other children by the time they are four. For older kids and teenagers who are stuck to their gadgets, they’d need rules to build etiquette such as “dinner table is a phone-free zone”. It’s also essential that they go to sleep without their smart phones.
5. Rules that build real-world skills
These rules should help your children once they leave home; they are also a summation of getting them to comply with all the above rules. Schoolwork is enough to get some children to take up responsibilities and stay motivated while others need a little extra. One of the most basic is to get them to do their part of the chores. Even if they are really young, you can get them started by having them do simple tasks such as segregating their soiled clothes in the hamper. As they get older you can reward them with money for bigger tasks so they can learn how to handle money.
What to Do If Rules Are Broken?
Typically parents decide the consequences of broken rules; however it’s better if the consequences are something that is agreed upon with your child. For example if your child breaks one of the healthy habits rules with toys and playtime and you ask them the consequence, they might reply with “I guess I won’t get to play with the toy for a while”. Therefore rather than coming down on them over a broken rule, you could go with “Looks like you’ve decided not to play with those toys for a while”. Children are more accepting of the rules and consequences they helped create.
Rules keep things together and help raise your children to become responsible adults. When formulating them for infants, you can have complete control over what goes into it. However, when making house rules for 8 year olds or older children, have them sit with you and draw clear boundaries.