Rules are an important element of every family. They should be created collaboratively to reflect the foundational values of your family (for tips on instilling family values, click here). Children can and should have a voice in helping create these family rules. When formalizing your family’s rules, sit down with your children and tell them that you are seeking their input in order to create some rules that will reflect your family’s values in everyday life.
You can start with an example. If one of your values is to treat others with respect, you can exemplify that value with a rule that states, “No shouting at each other.” For very young children, try to phrase most of the rules simply and in the negative such as, “no lying” or “no hitting.” Rules stated in this way are clear, concrete and easy to remember.
The great thing about rules is that they can be changed. As your children grow and develop, the rules that enforce you family’s values will need to change to reflect their level of development. For example, if one of your values is to take care of the things you have been given (stewardship), that could translate into a rule of not writing on the walls for a toddler. As that toddler grows, that rule could be changed to say, “Ask before hanging a poster in your room with nails.” See the difference? Here are some suggestions for rules to get you started.
These rules should be posted in a public place in your home such as a wall in the kitchen or the refrigerator door. Start with those things that are most problematic for your family. You don’t want a HUGE list of rules (4 will suffice) – just include the issues that are the most troubling right now. If your children don’t struggle with hitting, there is no need to write it down even if one of your values is to be kind to others. We have developed a free printable you can use to record your family’s rules.
Make time to review the list regularly and update as needed. These reviews should be done during times of peace, not just when a rule is being broken. It is important to instill these values and rules at every available moment. Try making a game out of it at dinnertime by asking who can recite all the rules accurately.
Clear, concise and agreed upon rules are an essential ingredient to every successful family. What are some of your family’s rules?