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Tips for Creating and Posting Family Rules

Laura Kuehn, LCSW
Written by Laura Kuehn, LCSW

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?

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed therapist who offers parent counseling services to families in Connecticut. She loves to equip and encourage parents of kids of all ages. CfP is the place she combines some of her favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring teens.


    • BL –

      Thanks for your comment. I agree – so often we focus too much on the negative. It is important that we emphasize what we want to see more of rather than just those behaviors that we would like to eliminate. I write more about that here and here.

      For some “black and white” thinking children, however, clear rules with what they should not do work best. There’s less ambiguity. It really depends on the child. Even the 10 Commandments have both positive and negatively framed rules!

      God bless,

  • Hi,

    This is my first visit to your site, and I’ve been feverishly taking notes so I can remember your words of wisdom! Thank you for sharing these concepts and examples. The rules we are trying to implement in our home are, “I obey all the way, right away, with a happy heart,” “I will not hurt anyone or anything with my words/mouth” and “I will not hurt anyone/anything with my body.” Our children have the first one down in memory, so it’s great when my four year old begins to give a pouty look and I gently remind her by asking, “how do we obey?” She usually breaks into a smile, repeats the phrase and runs off to obey. “Usually” being the key word, here 🙂

    • Susan – Glad you stopped by! I love your rules – they are simple, clear and an obvious expression of what your family values as your guiding principles. Even if you don’t call them that – these are the foundations of your family. These are the stones upon which godly character is built. Well done!

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