Caring for You and Your Family

How to establish and enforce rules at home

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Every household has its set of do’s and don’ts, which may vary from one home to another. Setting rules at home and ensuring they are being followed is important, as it will help your children learn to follow rules in other places. This article helps parents to establish household rules and ensure they are followed through.

Many parents are aware of the need to have household rules, as children behave best when they are given a clear structure of instructions. However, knowing how to create rules and enforce them is a struggle many parents today admit to. The following tips will make it easy:
Write down a list of do’s and don’ts. You may think this is unnecessary, but writing down the list of household rules is the first step in ensuring everyone in the family becomes aware of the expectations, as well as take the rules seriously. Rules also help children feel safe and secure hence reducing the power struggles. And in case your child pulls off “But I didn’t know that was wrong” kind of phrase, you can always pull out the list as a point of reference.
Explain the reason for each rule. Today’s children are inquisitive. It is therefore necessary to explain to your children the reason behind the set of rules at your household. Don’t thump your chest when your children ask you why you set the rule and retort by saying, “Because I am your mother and I said so.” This often becomes a recipe for power play, as your children are likely to test you by rebelling to the rules set. A good way to set rules would be to involve your children when making the rules. Just because your children are young does not mean they have no opinion. Ask them if they think the rule is necessary and why, and then incorporate some of their feedback.
Establish consequences for each rule broken. When it comes to children, establishing consequences for breaking rules is as equally important as setting up rules. Children will always try and test authority sometimes by breaking a rule just to see your reaction. Therefore, be consistent with enforcing the rules and if your children follow them, reward them with positive effects such as words of affirmation and once a while you may consider rewarding them with physical gifts. However, when your children violate the rules, there ought to be negative consequences. Consider various forms of punishment other than beating. Some of these could include time-out or denial of certain privileges that they are accustomed to.
Model the behaviour you want to see in your children. Ensure everyone in the household adheres to the rules set and that includes you too. Children tend to learn more by imitation and therefore as a parent you need to constantly remind yourself that your children are paying more attention to what you do than what you say. Being a role model requires effort, discipline and forethought, therefore be very intentional about what behaviour you model for your children. For instance, if you do not want your children to tell lies, then do not lie to them. And when you make a mistake, own up and apologise to them. This will set a good example to them.

Published August 2017…

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