Family Rules


Keeping households “happy” involves a myriad of things, including operating under a set of rules. Creating house rules saves a lot of emotional energy that may have been used to fuss and argue.  The relational skills your kids learn at home—respecting others’ feelings and their property—will also make it easier for them to form healthy relationships with friends, college roommates, their spouses, coworkers, etc. in the future.

Family Rule Charts can be especially helpful when a prospective adoptive child joins an intact family.  Any foster or internationally adopted child may be more familiar with how a former household or care facility works and can easily assume that you expect the same standards.  Therefore, discussing Family Rules upfront can help keep the peace – and also offer the prospective adoptive (or adopted) child some comfort in adjusting to a brand new household and world.

Family Rules are a set of Do’s and Don’ts that serve as guidelines for carrying out family morals and values, creating a basis for discipline.  They are developed by all family members, apply to all members and can be reviewed on a regular basis to determine how well the family is doing in following the rules.  The purpose is to establish consistent guidelines that will help everyone know what IS and what ISN’T expected of them.  They encourage family members to take responsibility for their own behavior and to be contributing members of the family.  They teach cooperation and make living together much more pleasant.  They help ensure that everyone in the family has input into how the family operates and knows the standards of acceptable behavior.  

Let’s talk about the.. Rules for establishing the Rules:

*Rules should involve everyone’s participation.  If grandma or grandpa play an active parenting role, they should be involved.
*They are designed to promote and reinforce desirable behaviors. 
*They help children learn appropriate behaviors through parental modeling. (You can’t build a strong family team in a “Do as I say, not as I do” environment!)
Tips for having a discussion about the House Rules:
1. Have everyone sit around the table to discuss potential rules.  Have young children sit on laps or be present even if they can’t contribute in developing the rules.
2. Share problem behaviors by encouraging everyone to discuss behaviors they feel are problems.  Talk freely about the issues that need to be worked on.  Avoid blaming statements and fault finding.
3. Have a large sheet of paper or poster board and a magic marker.  Draw a line down the center of the paper.  Label one column “Do’s” and the other column “Don’ts.”
4. Brainstorm a list of rules.  Allow children to be active in brainstorming the list.  The goal is for parents to have children come up with some of the rules they’d like to see on the list.  For example, if the parent would like a rule in putting toys away, initiate this by saying: “What kind of rule should we have about putting toys away?”  
5. If there is a behavior that is a particular problem for one child more than the others, solicit the suggestion from that person.  “Julie, what rule should we have about keeping the playroom clean?”  Julie will come up with the solution:  “Do put the toys away.  Don’t leave them on the floor.”  Always praise Julie for coming up with a great rule!  Repeat the process until all the issues are covered.
6. Keep the rules simple and specific.  A rule like, “No running in the house” is too vague.  Phrase the rule like:  “Don’t chase the dog or play fetch in the house.” and “Do play ball with the dog in the backyard.”  Remember, for every “what not to do” there has to be a “what to do.”  This way you are substituting what you want – for what you don’t want.
7. Limit Family Rules to a list of five to seven.  Keeping a shorter list of rules will help the children remember them easily, feel they are manageable – and practice them more efficiently.
8. Identify a consequence and reward for each rule.  For the rules to have meaning, a consequence must be associated with each.  That is, when children choose to misbehave, a consequence will follow.  When a child chooses to behave by following a rule, a reward should also follow.  This teaches children that rules have meaning.
9. Post the Rules in a place so parents and children can refer to them when a behavior needs to be performed.  “Cassidy, I need you to follow our family rules and pick up your toys from the play room floor.”
10. Hold regular family meetings to review the rules.  They are not written in concrete and need not apply “forever,” however.  When a behavior is no longer a problem, consider having a “Rule Dropping” Party.  Discuss that the rule has now become a family moral or value.  If a new issue comes up, put it on the list of Do’s and Don’ts as you drop another rule.
In the event these guidelines are too specific for your family, you can certainly establish Family Rules on a lesser scale designed to fit the needs of your specific family.   Our biggest point is that a family with clear and consistent expectations – will be a happier family!
What Family Rules inspire your home?