You probably have a few household rules that you expect your family to live by. Maybe they are displayed in writing and maybe they are simply inferred.
The rules we choose will vary from your family to family, but a recent incident got me thinking…
Am I setting the right rules?
Some of the rules that we have in our house are no-brainers and some are a little more convoluted:
- No fighting—be kind to one another.
- Do what mom and dad ask you to do.
- Anything on the top pantry shelf you have to ask for before getting (smart parents keep the treats up there;).
- Brush your teeth.
- Say your prayers.
- Choose a positive attitude.
A few weeks ago, rule #2 got called into question. We were rushing to get ready for soccer and my oldest was dragging her feet to the point where the pajamas were still on and we needed to leave in a matter of minutes.
Me: “You need to get your soccer uniform on right now. Do as I ask.”
Oldest: “But I don’t want to play soccer! Why did you even sign me up? You didn’t even ask me.”
Me: “I did it because it is good for you. Now do as I say and get dressed.”
But on the drive to the soccer game, I got thinking. Who was I to say that soccer was good for her?
Another incident involving my four-year-old and rule #6 got me questioning the types of rules we were expecting our kids to live by. Her mashed potatoes were so rudely touching the chicken on her plate and tears erupted. After trying to talk rationally, I reminded her about rule #6—choose a positive attitude.
“But mom,” she said, “Sometimes I just feel like being sad for a minute.” Who was I to force her into a positive attitude and deny her from feeling a very real emotion?
Do you assign rules that you aspire to live by?
It seems that daily as a parent I ask myself if I’m doing the right thin. It seemed that some of the rules I expected my children to live by were the exact rules I myself aspire to live by. I like sports so that means they are good for my kids as well. I like living with a positive attitude so it’s only natural that my offspring should too.
Are we setting standards for our children that actually quench our own needs?
Do we require their chores done a certain way at a certain time because that is what we need? Or in my case, am I REFRAINING from assigning chores because they are done easier and better myself?
Sometimes we need our kids to look and act a certain way because it makes us feel better as a parent; it gives us the opportunity to live vicariously through them. It’s hard to think that the life we want for them isn’t always the life our children want for themselves.
Is this about me, or is this about my kid?
Do you require your child to learn a musical instrument because you never got the chance to? How about only allowing them to wear certain outfits because you think they are best?
If you are getting a ton of resistance from your child on certain rules, it may be time to ask, Am I setting the right rules? Is this really about my child, or is this more about me?
Of course, kids will push boundaries to get what they want. This does not at all mean that you should have no rules or relax your expectations for your family. Not at all. But when I think back to the rule that my parents set stating I could only choose two sports to play, it nearly broke my heart and definitely caused many unnecessary fights. I loved being active and playing every sport I could try. With that rule, I felt the person inside me being stifled and that felt incredibly unjust. If only we could have compromised.
Let your kids help set the rules.
Children need rules, whether they think they do or not. They need rules to recognize boundaries and to help become decent human beings. The point is setting the right kind of rules.
As a teacher, one of the smartest things I did at the beginning of the year was let the class help set the rules. Thinking they would choose No homework or Let us sit wherever we want…I was actually surprised when they chose rules like Raise your hand and Turn in your homework on time. Their rules were very reasonable. They also came up with rewards and consequences that even I thought were completely fair.
Instead of running a dictatorship, let your kids have a say in the rules. Sit down together and churn out rules and consequences that the whole family can agree on. State your expectations and then let the kids figure out how to get there. Make rule-making more of a family counsel than a “Now-you’re-going-to-do-what-I say” type of thing. Your kids will be more invested in the rules and you’ll skip the dramatics.
My oldest daughter could star in the hit play That’s Not Fair! Hey, instead of soccer, maybe I should sign her up for drama—if she thinks that would be cool of course.
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