Parents can and should make rules for their household, but many parents I speak with find it unusual that I believe there are rules about making rules. Everything we do is modeled after our Heavenly Father and is designed to direct our children to Him. That being the case, we need to model His rule making when we make ours.
Rules need to be:
- Knowable – You cannot create rules and not reveal them to your children. If you are going to chastise them for some behavior or attitude, then you need to make sure you teach to that BEFORE the offense is given.
- Predictable – The rules should build in a particular direction that should be built on and consistent with guiding principles (hard work, good stewardship, etc.). Rules that are not consistent with one another or not consistent with the principles are doing a disservice to your children, your household, and your Lord.
- Consistent – A rule should be consistently applied, and consistently enforced. I am guilty of creatively applying exceptions for all of my children. My older children can do the math to keep up with my thinking here, but the younger ones cannot. Keep the rules constant for them. The children will appreciate knowing what to expect, and your wife will appreciate with not having one more thing on her plate (keeping up with a moving target).
- Achievable – I know this should go without saying, but sometimes I find, those are the very things that need to be said. You cannot make rules that your children cannot live up to. That is simply asking for frustration on everyone’s part and it will ultimately drive them away from you and most likely their Heavenly Father.
- Frame Appropriate – The rules you are making should factor in the child’s age / frame. I do not have rules for Coco (he follows house rules that even guests would follow, but that is it). Princess is just about completely out of rules as well. The younger we slide down the family, the less freedom they have.
- Minimal – Even for the little ones, the rules you create should be broad and few. If they are toddling through their day trying to remember the household code of conduct, you are overdoing it by a long shot. You are raising unhappy children and are creating unnecessary confrontation with your children. That is bad from the get-go. Here is an example of keeping rules broad and few, P.C. loves tools. He loves my gadgets. He is four. He can do a lot of expensive damage to a lot of things (most of all himself). Rather than a special rule, one broad one that all can enjoy fits the bill: “If it is not yours, don’t touch it without asking.” Bright-Eyes at two can handle that one and so can everyone else. No extra rules are necessary to cover P.C.’s particular penchant.
The bottom line is this. Your children are required to respect and obey you. Don’t make that harder on them than it has to be. Our Lord makes respect and obedience a joy. You need to as well.