Making Rules and Setting Boundaries

How To Set Boundaries and Family Rules Your Kids Will Actually Obey

That Your Kids Will Actually Obey

I don’t ever want it to appear that I am in anyway the perfect parent. Trust when I say that I making this sh*t up as I go along. Truly. Fortunately, like farmers insurance, I have know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two. I’ve learned the hard way about rule introduction to young children during my growing pain days of teaching kindergarten. Instead of giving you the whole back story, I’ll just break down my lesson into some easy steps for you. The idea is that you are making rules together as family so everyone is on the same page.

Step 1: Chose your timing

This is going to be a full on family conversation. Put your phones down, the television is off, everyone sit and look at each other type of conversation. No one gets to just sit there and everyone has the say. This needs to be preemptive in that it is not to be done when you are on your last straw for the day but BEFORE you reach that point. The idea is that everyone is calm enough to think rationally cause that’s what your house rule need to be. You also need to a substantial block of time. There are actually 2 parts to this conversation so you might even need to take a break in the middle or have this conversation on 1 day and then come back together to discussing consequences (peep my most about that here) on the next day. Whatever the case, don’t try to squeeze this into a commercial break. This needs to be a chance for everyone to have their say so everyone buys into the rules.

Step 2: Gather supplies

Like most binding things in the world, you are going to be writing this all down. This is more or less a family contract. Also like a real contract, it is going to go through several steps and rewrites before you have a solid finished list you can live with so don’t just grab one piece of paper- bring a a stack or heck even a dry erase board if you need extra points.

Step 3: Call the meeting and explain the agenda

This conversation is going to look different for every parent so I’ll give you the gist of what you need to cover in this initial introduction to get the ball rolling.

  • No one is currently in trouble
  • You want to make some changes to how things are working in your home
  • You want everyone to be involved
  • This is not a time for fighting or blaming. The more this happens the longer this will take.
  • Only “I” language gets used (i.e. “I would like…”) “She always does this.” or “You don’t…” is not allowed.
  • Everyone must weigh in
  • This is a serious matter and this is what your entire family will live by so don’t suggest something you can’t live with
  • Everyone will abide by every rule, even the parents

Step 4: Make a List of Rules

I’m sure your whole family will immediately jump on board and start listing all their ideas ( insert eye roll) but just in case they don’t, you’ll probably need to make the first move. Pick something simple like “Tell the truth”. Here is the IMPORTANT PART– after you write it down then you have to discuss it. Does everyone know exactly what you mean? Are their exceptions? What are they and why? Everything needs to be clear as glass on this one. Make no assumptions about anything. If someone says that everyone should be respectful, then you need a definition of respectful and everyone has to agree on it. You may think respectful means pick up your dirty clothes and your kid may think they are good as long as they don’t spit on you; Spell everything out.

Once you get rolling on this and everyone is participating, its feasible that your list could get pretty long. There might even be a few suggestions that YOU don’t like but it still gets wrote down because if its said in the meeting then it gets considered to be important. Don’t worry, not everything that everyone says is going to become a rule. This part is just to make sure that everyone gets heard.

Step 5: Knock ’em Out

By the time everyone has said their piece and you’ve had a water break, your list might be a *little* long. I think ours had something like 20 things on it but I’ve seen some that have pages and others with fewer. The idea for this next part is to knock some off. Go to each suggestion and ask if everyone agrees with it. If someone doesn’t then ask for clarification- What part are they struggling with? Is it the whole thing? For instance, a suggestion is that everyone helps with yard work but your sons says that his allergies act up when he does it. You could change it to everyone helps with chores. Encourage honesty and openness.

After you go over all of them, you still might have quite a long list. That’s okay. Look and see if there is anything you can combine. Example being words that mean the same or close to the same thing. If everyone said they would Be RESPECTFUL and you all agree that means no bad language, no hurting each other, and giving each other privacy then you could take off KNOCK ON THE DOOR BEFORE ENTERING because that would be part of giving privacy that you agreed too. Double check with everyone before you combine anything because some may want it to stay separate and that’s fine.

Step 6: Finalize Your Rules

By the time everyone in your house has agreed to everything on your rules list, its likely going to be much shorter. I sincerely hope your temper is not and that is was a helpful conversation. In the end, its best to have between 4 and 10 rules on your list. The key is to have all the important things covered but that it is short enough to be remembered. No one is going to recall subsection B of paragraph 3 when the trash is overflowing. It needs to be a simple and to the point list that everyone can remember. Write them down, type them out, or carve it in stone if you want to but the idea is that your final copy should good enough for display cause you are going to do just that. Hang them on the wall or put them on the refrigerator, just make sure they are somewhere you can come back to them. Take a family selfie with them or even have everyone sign agreement like a contract but make sure it is clear that everyone is agreeing to follow and live by these. No take backs.

I’d like to tell you that now you have your list, your house is going to run so smoothly and you’ll never have another issue but that would be a bold face lie. Everyone is going to break the rules, even you. The next conversation ya’ll will have is about the consequences ( Read my post about how to only use 2 consequences to handle every broken rules) for that but for now take heart in knowing that your family has agreed expectations. It will make life easier when mistakes happen that everyone can go back to the list and maybe even learn to admit when they are wrong (We can hope right?) It is my hope that this brings you closer has a family and gives you a source of stability in your home.

Published by caffeineprayers

If I listed all the things I do and am that would take a lot of space up, so lets suffice it to say that I'm expert in nothing but I do know somethings about teaching and counseling, I'm really trying to be a good Christian, and I think my kid is pretty cool.

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