- What are family rules?
- Why should a family have rules?
- What are the top 6 common family rules?
- How to define family rules?
- When should you start making family rules?
- How can you ensure the effectiveness of rules?
- How can you make your family follow rules?
On a visit to my friend’s home, I noticed that it was calm, neat, everything is in its place, and the children are in their bedroom playing a board game on the playmat. It was a delight to witness such atmosphere. Clean, calm, disciplined, and just perfect! That’s the beauty of having family rules.
Don’t fret if you haven’t defined your family rules yet, as MomJunction tells you about the common rules every family must have, the importance of such rules, and tips to get your family members follow the rules.
What Are Family Rules?
Family rules are certain statements or instructions about the behavior that is expected of the members, especially children. Family rules can be specific to a situation, such as dining and safety rules, and certain ground rules such as ‘no running, hitting or breaking things in the house’.
Why Should A Family Have Rules?
Often we hear people saying, “He comes from a good family.” So, what makes a ‘good family’? Having rules is one of the foundations for a good family.
A family, which has a set of rules, is most likely to be successful. Moreover, rules are not restricted to children alone as they apply to adults as well. When we have rules set by the state and our work place, then why not we have a few at home?
Here’s why all family members should know and follow the rules:
- When all the members follow the rules, it helps them lead a harmonious life, and also each individual knows about their responsibility towards the others in the family.
- Rules help you have discipline in life and make your daily routine predictable and smooth.
- Following rules at home will help you and your children follow them at other places too.
- Children understand which behavior is ‘okay’ and which is ‘not okay’.
- Children are tempted to break rules; the flip side is that they get to understand the consequences of breaking rules so that they don’t break them in future.
- The rules should apply equally to everyone in the family lest
- Your child gets mixed messages about them. For example, you have a rule, ‘no yelling,’ but you yell at your kids; you have a rule ‘no eating on the couch,’ but you eat on the couch sometimes. This doesn’t send the right message to your kid.
So, convinced about the need for family rules? Then let’s move on to see the rules that you could have for your family.
[ Read: Blended / Step Family ]
Common Family Rules
Irrespective of the family type, here are the common family rules that you may have:
1. Have your meals together:
“A family that eats together stays together.” Eating together as a family helps you bond and share your experiences with each other. However, have these rules during mealtime:
- Have your meal at the dining table and not on the couch.
- Ensure the television is off while you are eating.
- Keep your mobiles away from the dining table, or you will be tempted to keep checking on them.
- Assign your children the responsibility of setting up the table.
- Instruct your children to focus on eating and chewing their food and not play while eating.
- Tell your kids not to talk when their mouths are full.
- Serve only so much food that you want to eat, don’t waste. It will also help your kids realize the importance of food.
- Don’t rush the dinner time; this is the time you get to discuss what happened during the day so take it at a medium pace.
- If it is not possible to have a family dinner every day, have it as many times as possible in a week.
- Skipping meals is not allowed unless there is a valid reason such as ill health.
- Clear your plate after eating.
- Put the plates in the dishwasher after clearing.
2. Follow the road safety rules:
It’s better to be safe than sorry. No matter how urgent your work is, you must follow these safety rules:
- Buckle up your seat belts before you drive.
- Ensure the doors are locked and the child lock is working.
- Do not take phone calls or text messages while driving.
- If you are traveling with an infant, secure them in the car seat with the belt buckled in.
- Instruct your kids not to distract you while driving, by making too much noise or quarreling.
- Tell all members of the family to watch out for each other; if someone breaks the road rules, the others will remind them.
These safety rules have to be always followed, whether traveling in your own car or with someone else.
3. Be polite, respectful, and compassionate:
Make it a practice to speak politely whether it’s with your family members or outsiders. Remember these points:
- It might be difficult to speak softly when you are angry, but don’t yell no matter what. Make a conscious effort to do so and practice breathing exercises to calm down.
- Teach your kids better ways of handling their anger and frustration such as giving them a time-out, drawing to express their anger, or counting numbers to ten.
- Explain your kids the importance of the three golden words, please, thank you and sorry.
- Help them channelize their energies and emotions through useful activities.
- The simple way to teach your kids to speak politely is to set an example. Parents are the first teachers to children, so when they see you talking politely, they will learn to do so.
- Teach your kids to respect elders, care for them and be compassionate towards the needy and animals.
4. Share the household chores:
It’s a tedious process to clean up your home after a tiring day. Sharing the chores will ease up the burden.
- Share the cleaning tasks; one can take up vacuuming, another can wash the dishes, and the rest can change the sheets or do laundry.
- Keep the things, such as keys, remote, and dishes, in their place to avoid chaos the next day.
- Don’t rush the things next day. Keep the stuff, such as chopped veggies, ironed clothes, and shoes, ready for the next day.
5. Seek permission or inform before stepping out:
You need to define boundaries and make sure that everyone stays within them. Here are a few:
- Teach your kids to inform you or take your permission before they go out.
- Tell them that they can go out only when you or your spouse permits them; they can’t choose to go somewhere else from there. If they plan to, they must inform you about it.
- Make sure you have the contact numbers of the parents/guardians of your children’s friends.
- Give your numbers to your children before they leave, or even better let them know your numbers by heart.
- If you have younger children, tell them not to entertain strangers and shout for help if they sense danger.
[ Read: Authoritarian Parenting Style ]
Hygiene starts at home. Practising these hygiene rules will help your kids stay safe and also imbibe them in their daily life:
- Tell them to wash hands before and after eating food and after using the toilet.
- Keep a hand sanitizer while you travel and let your kids carry one to school. They may use the sanitizer before eating their snack and lunch.
- Teach your kids to cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough to prevent the spreading of the infection.
- Clear the waste bins every day.
- Flush the toilet after use.
Other General Family Rules:
- Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
- Dry the towels after you use them.
- Turn off the television if you are not watching.
- Put your clothes in the laundry basket.
- Put your shoes in the shoe rack.
- Check if the door is locked before you leave.
- Put things back in their designated places such as keys, bags, and books.
- Wind up the toys or games after playing.
- Wait for your turn to talk while in a conversation with your parents or a group.
- Playing with a ball inside the house
- Drawing on the walls
- Pets at the dining table
- Spilling water
- Playing games on the mobile or tab beyond one hour
- Interrupting while others are talking
- Arguing with parents
- Pushing and pulling things
- Yelling in the house
- Jumping on the bed or couch
- Biting or hitting each other
Steps In Defining Family Rules
For defining any rule, there has to be proper planning and execution. Family rules are no exception. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the below steps for defining your family rules:
- Identify the rules: Sit with your partner and identify the rules. The list can be endless but prioritize the rules such as safety, dinner time, or hygiene rules. It can also be specific to behaviors that are not acceptable, such as spilling water, hitting, biting, throwing or jumping on the bed. Start with the problem behaviors you want to address.
- Explain the rules: After you define the rule, explain it and ensure that your child understands the rule. If you have a rule, “no spanking,” you have to explain what is spanking. Tell them why they should not spank.
- Enforce the consequences for breaking the rules: When rules are made, you should also decide the consequences for breaking the rule. When the rules are broken, the consequences should be enforced immediately for the rule to be effective. For example, if your child hit his sibling, then he gets a timeout for five minutes or loses a certain privilege.
- Follow the rules: Children learn by imitation. So, you should be exemplary in your behavior for your children to be the same. For example: when you are respectful to others, your children tend to respect their elders.
[ Read: Parenting Styles ]
Note that the rules cannot be rigid. They may be relaxed under some special circumstances. Also, they need to be changed as your children grow. Rules for a toddler may not be the same as those for an older child. So, begin by knowing from when you can set rules for your kid.
When should you start making rules?
You can start defining rules when your child acquires language skills and starts understanding your tone of language and communication within the family. Let’s look at how you need to make rules at two crucial stages in a child’s life:
Toddlerhood (2-5 years):
Toddlers lack self-control and are still in the training stage. They are most often in a playful mood and tend to forget the rules. They need support and reminders to follow the rules. You need to be strict and cautious with them, especially with the safety rules, like ‘staying away from fire and electricity,’ ‘no spilling water on the floor’ or ‘no running in the house,’ etc.
Children with special needs might require extra support and help to understand and remember the rules.
School-aged/older children (6-12 years):
As children grow up, you need to make new rules appropriate to their age. Don’t have high expectations, it can make it difficult for them to follow. Involving them in making new rules helps them understand the rules better.
You can reinforce the habit by rewarding them for following the rules. Don’t use punitive methods as consequences for breaking the rules as the children are still young. Refraining from privileges should be a good consequence at this age.
Teenage (13- 18 years):
Involving teens while making rules helps them be responsible for their behavior. They want freedom and independence in everything they do and when their freedom is restricted, they rebel and try breaking the rules. Besides, they might be sandwiched between family rules and peer pressure. This poses a great challenge for parents.
To make sure that your teen follows the rules, involve them in making the family rules. Encourage their participation so that they understand the purpose of having rules.
Rules on alcohol, sex, and curfews have to be imposed to help your child stay safe and healthy. Some families even have safety contracts – a written agreement that lists the rules the child should follow.
Effectiveness Of Rules
Rules are as effective as you make and back them up. While making your rules, you also need to decide on a consequence for breaking the rule and ensure that all the family members agree on it. For example, when your child breaks the rule, don’t just give him another chance; instead, make him face the consequence of breaking the rule.
You need to start implementing the consequences as early as three years, so that when your child becomes a teenager, there is an agreement on the rules and the consequences of breaking them.
Mere involvement of your family members in making rules might not ensure that they follow the rules. You need to do more to get them to follow the rules.
[ Read: Dysfunctional Family Relationships ]
Tips For Making Your Family Follow The Rules
Getting your family to follow the rules is not as difficult as you might think. The following tips can help you motivate them:
- Sit down and discuss before you form the rules. Don’t make so many rules that your family feels overwhelmed. Don’t let the ‘dont’s’ outweigh the ‘do’s’.
- Remember that toddlers and preschoolers can take in only two to three rules at a given time. Start with one and add rules as they grow. This gives them the opportunity to learn the rule and understand how the family rules work.
- Prepare a chart with rules on one side and consequences of breaking the rules on the other. Use pictures to represent them so that your children can understand them easily. Involve your child in making the chart and explain it to them.
- Stick the rules chart at a place, such as a refrigerator or their room door, where your child can see them.
- If you have any differences with your partner regarding the rules, resolve the differences before they turn out to be conflicts.
- Rules are for everybody in the family, don’t take advantage of your position to break them.
- Make rules that are age-appropriate for your children, and are easy to follow.
- Avoid ambiguous rules such as ‘talk properly’ which can mean many things and can be difficult for the child to understand. Instead have a clear rule stating ‘say please, thank you, welcome while talking to others’.
- Children try to take advantage of grandparents and caretakers, and break the rules. Make sure everyone in the family is consistent with the rules.
- When you see your child following the rules, you can reinforce that behavior by rewarding or praising them.
When you realize that having rules makes your life easier, you will be motivated to stick to them.
Family rules are a great way of imbibing respect and discipline in the house. Explain your kids that they represent your family wherever they go. Also, make sure everyone in the family is on the same page about the rules.
Have you set any common family rules yet? What are they? Share your experiences in the comment section.
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