Household Rules

22 Oct Household Rules

by Marie Marchand

House rules help family members achieve a balance between getting what they want and respecting the needs of others. They can also help children and teenagers feel safe and secure.

Family rules are positive statements about how your family wants to look after and treat its members. Rules can help everyone in your family get along better, and make family life more peaceful.

When rules are clear, they help:

  • children and teenagers learn where the limits are, and what’s expected of them
  • adults be consistent in the way they treat children and teenagers.
Who makes the rules?

It’s important to involve all members of the family as much as possible when developing family rules.

Children as young as three can help you make the rules and talk about why your family needs them.

As children get older, they can take a bigger part in deciding what the rules should be, as well as the consequences for breaking them. Pre-teens and teenagers get a lot of good out of being involved in making rules, because it gives them the chance to take responsibility for their own behaviour.

How to start?

If this is your first time, let your children know that on a specific time, you will have a family meeting to discuss the household rules. Ask them in advance to think about what they think they should be.

During the meeting, go around the table and ask each family member their opinions. Come up with an agreement and make sure that all the rules are clear and easy to understand.

Write down the rules on a big poster and hand up for everyone to see. The children might to decorate the poster or add colours to it.

Have four to five rules to start with as more than this could overwhelm the children and set them up for failure.

What kind of rules?

Choose the most important things to make rules about – for example, a rule about not physically hurting each other would be a must for most families.

Some families develop rules about safety, manners, politeness, daily routines and respect for each other. Others develop rules about values (e.g. be curious, stay positive, giggle and laugh everyday)

Every family’s rules will be different. The standards you create will be influenced by your beliefs, values, your situation and your child’s maturity and needs.

All good rules have something in common: they are specific and easy to understand.

‘Do’ rules instead of ‘don’t’ rules

‘Do’ rules are good teaching tools, and they’re best in most situations because they guide your child’s behaviour in a positive way. Here are some examples:

  • ‘Sit down to eat’ instead of ‘Don’t get up during a meal.’
  • ‘Speak in a polite voice’ instead of ‘Don’t be rude.’
  • ‘Be gentle with each other’ instead of ‘Don’t hit.’
When to start making rules?
  • You can start making simple rules as soon as your child has the language skills to understand them. This is part of teaching your child what you expect.
  • Young children will need support and reminders to follow rules, because they’re likely to forget or ignore rules. This is especially important with safety rules like ‘Stay away from the dam’ and ‘Never touch the matches’.
  • Some children with special needsmight also need help to understand and remember rules.
  • All children are different, but it might be middle to late primary school age before you can start relying on them to follow rules without your help in most situations.
Should rules be changed?
  • Rules will change as your children develop and your family’s situation changes. As children get older, for example, rules about privacy might become more important.
  • Have family meetings to revise your list from time to time and bring the most important rules into the forefront of everyone’s mind. Involve older children and teenagers in making any changes to the rules.