I was talking with an acquaintance a while back who was feeling a bit overwhelmed by her two young children, ages 3 and 5. She was struggling with messy rooms, sassy mouths and general defiance. Pretty typical stuff on any given day in most households around the world, right? The problem was compounded by differing approaches to problem behavior by both she and her husband.
I asked if they had developed any household rules, and she replied “Well, of course we have household rules!” I then asked if the kids knew what they were. She said that they know MOST of them. I then asked if the rules were enforced equally by the parents, to which she replied “Uuuugghh…probably not.” I suggested that they have a family meeting. To find out more on family meetings, check out this post.
Most families operate with household rules. Sometimes the rules are written down,
sometimes they are just understood by family members. One thing that I discuss with parents
frequently as a home visitor is how having clearly outlined household rules
along with natural consequences for violations can lead to a smoother running
home. Let’s compare the running of a
household to running a business. Most
businesses have well defined operating procedures and codes of conduct for
employees. As manager, your job is to
make sure the policies and rules are fair and that all employees are aware of
them along with the consequences for infractions. As manager of your household, have you done
this with your household rules?
So, where to begin? Here are some tips, suggestions and things to consider in developing your household room:
- Have an upper management meeting. If you have a partner, sit down with him/her for a private meeting. Go out to dinner or send the kids off to grandma’s while the two of you have a nice meal. Make the experience a positive one. Consider this an upper management meeting! Remember your goal is to develop a list of household rules and consequences that can be enforced by both of you.
- Hold a family meeting with the kids. Even though you pretty much have determined what household rules you plan to implement, it is important to give your children the opportunity to participate in deciding the rules as well. The majority of the time, they are agreeable with most of the rules, e.g., no hitting, yelling, etc. By involving them in the process, you are sharing control while building self-esteem. What better way to let them know that they are valued part of the family! Be sure to discuss the consequences as well. Kids need to know what to expect when they have made a poor choice. Having that knowledge ahead of time might make them think twice before pinching their sibling!
- Keep it positive. I’ve written about the benefits of keeping things positive in the past. Keep this in mind when writing down the rules, e.g., “We talk with sweet voices” instead of “No yelling.”
- Make a colorful chart or poster with the rules. Rules don’t have to be ugly! Write them down on a piece of poster board with bright, colorful markers. Involve the kids in the process, e.g., get out some stickers, crayons, etc., and have them help decorate. For real young children, you might want to include clip art or photos next to the rules, e.g., a picture of two siblings hugging next to the rule about being kind to each other, etc. Be sure to post the rules in a centrally located place such as the refrigerator. You can purchase magnetic strips at your local office supply store. While you are there, you can also have your poster laminated so it lasts longer.
- Refer back to the rules as needed. Be sure to do a progress check ever now and then. Point out when you see your child doing a good job of talking in a sweet way to a sibling and the like. Referring back can also be handy when you hear those famous words “It’s not fair.” Great time to remind them that they agreed to and helped develop the household rules. It’s hard to argue with that!
Having had a teen living in our home for a period of time,
we found that having all the members of the house sign the household rules if
they were agreement really helped avoid some potential conflicts.
So, have you and your family sat down and written up household rules? Has it helped your house run smoother? Post your results!