Every house has them, whether it’s a written list or unspoken expectations. What house rules are set in your household? If you think you don’t really have rules, is running through the house allowed? Feet on the coffee table? Food and drinks in the living room? Are shoes expected to be left by the door?
Every house has both rules and preferences. Rules are set by setting expectations and correcting a behavior consistently. Preferences are set when a specific behavior is sometimes corrected and sometimes allowed.
I’ve sat down with many families to make lists of what rules they think should be in place in their homes. Surprisingly, the children (even those with significant behavioral problems) may have very insightful input. It’s easy to end up with a big list of what should and shouldn’t happen. However, a big list of what should and shouldn’t happen may be overwhelming, so it’s a very good idea to boil down your rough draft to something more manageable and specific to the behaviors you would like to change.
It seems like all rules that are typically suggested could fall into one of three categories/rules:
- Respect authority figures.
- Respect others and self.
- Respect property.
The list may then include more specific information for your family. Respecting authority figures may include specifics such as:
- doing what is asked the first time, without backtalk
- following curfew
- refrain from eye rolling
Respecting others and self may be specified as being “at home, school, or in the community” and may include sharing, refraining from name calling, etc. Respecting property may include picking up toys and clothes when finished with them, throwing trash in the trash can, and having chores done on time daily.
It is a good idea to introduce new, firm rules when everything is calm. I often begin by having the children help in listing every possible privilege that comes to mind. TV/movies, game systems, having friends over, going to a friend’s house, later bedtime on weekends, trips to the park, going out for ice cream/dinner, bicycles, allowance, and computer time are all examples of what may be included. Be creative! Even a bedroom door knob can be a privilege if not respected (do you hear a lot of door slamming at your house when kids are angry?)
House Rules can go a long way in establishing or maintaining peace in a household, so make sure they are presented as rules rather than preferences. I’d like to share just a few more quick tips to help you through the process:
- Involving the children in developing the rules and privileges helps them have more ownership of them, which helps when it’s time to enforce them!
- Try writing out a behavior contract:
- In order to earn the following privileges: (insert list of privileges), I understand that I must choose to follow the house rules: (insert house rules). I understand that failure to follow the house rules will indicate that I choose to lose one of the above privileges or earn any other consequence as determined by a parent.
- Have each child sign.
- Emphasize the CHOICE the children have in following the rules or losing privileges/receiving consequences.
- Be consistent and address the problematic behaviors EVERY time, or it will only be recognized as a preference (which means it’s wise to choose your battles- if you give them directions, be prepared to enforce them!)
- Remember that adults should follow house rules too!
What behaviors are most problematic in your home?
Keri Kitchen is a devoted wife and mother, volunteer youth pastor, and licensed mental health counselor. To read more about what God is doing in her life, visit her blog at www.aftertherainn.com.