Rules to Live By

“A few strong instincts and a few plain rules suffice us.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

After 8:00 p.m. I turn into a pumpkin – not a jolly, smiling pumpkin but a scary, cranky jack-o-lantern.  I am a morning person, so when my kids were in school, a firm rule in our house was, “If your homework isn’t done by 8:00 don’t ask Mom for help ’cause it ain’t gonna be pretty.”  The rule helped maintain calm in our house (added benefit: my kids learned time management). It was a good rule.

Family rules are beneficial.  Rules help kids learn:

  • what is expected of them (“Clear your plate after every meal.”)
  • what the family values are (“We do not pull the cat’s tail.”)
  • that there is structure so they feel safe and cared for (“Seatbelts are always worn in the car.”)
  • how to develop internal control (“No candy before dinner.”)
  • to be responsible (“Empty your hockey bag after each game.”)

Rules do not mean rigidity.  While the homework rule was seldom negotiable, rules occasionally can be loosened. Example: My kids were not allowed to watch R-rated movies. But the R-rated movie “Billy Elliot” (R-rated mostly because of language) was on TV and I knew it had an uplifting life lesson, so we all watched it as a family. Had I not been flexible with the R-rated rule, my kids would have missed a charming movie.

When your kids stick to the rules, praise them. It will make them feel good about themselves and reinforce the benefits of rules. After all, everyone appreciates being recognized for things they’ve done well and it motivates them to want to repeat the behavior.

 by Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator

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