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Creating family rules that work

Like most parents, you might find it challenging to list your family rules off the top off your head. Although you know what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t, labeling your expectations may be a little tricky. That’s why it is important to create a written list of your family rules.

Family rules are important for all families as they regulate the behavior of family members towards each other since everyone is made aware of what is expected of them. Furthermore, they help family members achieve a balance between getting what they want and respecting the needs of others.

Family rules are a wonderful way you to help your children understand your family values and help them feel safe and secure. Having a small set of rules also means you give the whole family a chance to understand and maintain a sense of family harmony.

Children really thrive when boundaries and rules are clear.  Even more so when the rules in your home are set up in such a way that children feel as if their own ideas about those rules have been given some consideration.

familyWhen rules are clear, they help children and teenagers learn where the limits are, and what’s expected of them and adults to be consistent in the way they treat children and teenagers.

What to include:

Family rules should include the rules that everyone in the house is expected to follow, including parents. So don’t include, “Bedtime is at 7 p.m.,” unless you also plan to go to bed at that time.

Your household rules should be specific to your family’s needs and values. While it might be important to one family to say, “No jumping on the furniture,” another family may want a rule that says, “Try at least two bites of everything on your plate.”

Finally, a lengthy list of rules could become too complicated and confusing, so keep your list short and simple.

Tips for creating family rules:

While there are many ways to come up with effective family rules, there are few steps you can follow in creating rules that will get children and all family members really excited:

Identify the family rules

Identify and clearly define the rules that are important for your family. Family rules may be specific to a situation, like a dinner time rules, or they can be specific to behaviors that are never okay, like running in the house, hitting a sibling, or jumping on furniture. Family rules should be important enough that you have no problem consistently enforcing them.

Rules are easier to follow when they are clear, exact, and can be easily explained to your child. Family rules focus on one specific behavior at a time. Avoid vague rules, such as “be good.” “Be good” includes many different things and could be hard for a child to understand and do. A more specific rule would be “Talk nicely to others.”

Unacceptable behaviors should be stated as a clear and concrete rule, such as “No hurting.” It is also important to state the acceptable or desired behavior immediately after the rule so your child knows what behavior you expect.

Keep it simple

There is no need to list off every single thing you expect your child to do and not to do in the house. Instead of a giant no-no list or must do checklist, it may help to think of family rules as guidelines.  Family rules can be a source of inspiration and gentle reminders for your expectations. Choosing words that are simple yet representative of the values you wish to share with your children for years to come usually work best.

Invite children to participate

Children are much more likely to respect family rules they have helped set up. Inviting children to create the family rules can be a great way to connect as well as a chance to hear what kind of values your children are already starting to think about.

Explain the rules

Make sure your child knows and understands the rules. You can check your child’s understanding by having her repeat the rule in her own words. For toddlers and preschoolers, you may need to help them understand what some words in the rule mean.  For example, if the rule is “no hurting,” you may need to describe what “hurting” means.

Toddlers and preschoolers need frequent reminders about the rules. Rules can be repeated often and you can place reminders, such as rules charts, in locations where your child can see them. It is also helpful to place them in a public area so that everyone can be reminded of the rules.

famReview and clarify when necessary

Taking the time to review the family rules together, say once a week or so may be a great way to keep everyone on the same page. As children grow, it may be helpful to revisit, rewrite or re-evaluate the family rules to make sure they are age appropriate. Especially as children approach the tween/teen years, aside from family rules that deal with core values, make agreements about limits and expectations.

Apply consequences for breaking the rules

When family rules are always enforced, your child’s behavior and your relationship will be better. Family rules should receive an immediate response when broken. Consequences for breaking family rules should be clear to the parent and child. They are included on the rules chart as a reminder of what to expect. Consequences for broken family rules should be enforced immediately.

What are your family rules?  

Are they working for you?

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