It is Time for Some Rules
Summer is coming to an end and the sigh heard around the country is the relief that the children are headed back to school. Often, with the return to school comes a return to some structure in the home. This usually means RULES.
One of the hardest lessons I learned was how I would often frustrate my children when I set rules. Making rules is important because rules hold the family together. Rules help us understand the expectations within the family. When the boundaries are clear and respected, this leads to a safe, predictable environment. But if they are not set clearly and followed through with, chaos will follow.
Here are a few tips on setting rules:
#1- Make the rule positive. The first rule for parents is to make sure that whatever you instruct your children to do, you say what you want, not what you don’t want. Instead of saying, “don’t leave your clothes strung all over the bathroom,” say, “before you leave the bathroom after your bath, place all your dirty clothes in the clothes basket.”
#2- Make the rule clear- Next make sure the instructions are specific such as placing the dirty clothes into the clothes basket. You might even need to show the child exactly how to do what you are requesting. I was told one time by a preacher to “never over estimate the intelligence of your audience.” I found that whenever I assumed my children knew what I wanted that it often led to many misunderstandings and much frustration.
Now, sometimes it is difficult to be clear. For instance, Instead of saying, “don’t you ever talk to your sister like that again,” say, “when you speak to your sister or anyone else, say only words you would like to be said to you.” That statement will no doubt need to be clarified by simply asking the child how they like to be talked to. This is where you can address the issues of name calling, sarcasm, blaming, yelling, etc.
#3- Set the rule and the consequences prior to the offense. Throwing down a rule and leveling a consequence on the fly is usually unfair to the child. We all like to know what is expected of us in advance and even what the consequences or rewards will be.
When you tell the child what you want, proceed to the “when/then” & “if/then” statements. “When you pick up your dirty clothes and put them in the clothes basket after your bath, then you may watch TV for an hour. If you do not, then you will not have TV privileges that night and you will go back and pick up your clothes and put them in the clothes basket.” Ask the child to repeat what they heard to make sure they understand. The consequences should lead the child back to obeying the original request.
#4- Include the child in the negotiation. The older the child is the more they should be incorporated in the negotiation of the expectation and the consequences. Children, just like us, want to believe they have some control over their lives. Letting them participate in the negotiations is one way to help this take place. You will also find that the rules they have helped develop are more likely to be followed.
Sometimes those same rules that are set need to be renegotiated. Never renegotiate with the child at the point of their disobedience. Follow through with the stated consequence and then, at a later time, you may choose to negotiate.
#5- Follow through! This is often the hardest part of parenting. If they do not do what is expected, follow through with the consequences in a very businesslike way. Avoid lectures, scolding, shaming, etc. I can hear my mom now, “Oh, where have I gone wrong?” Simply state what the rule was and do what you said you would do. No need to say anything else. This is where your actions speak louder than your words.
If they want to argue or throw a fit, do not engage. Anytime you argue with a child, you lose. Simply walk away. For instance, you have a clear understanding with your child that only after taking out the trash would they be allowed to play their video game. If they go and play their game before they had completed the task, simply go over to the TV, turn it off, and repeat the rule. You must follow through with the consequence or they will not respect the rule. If they try to argue or negotiate, ignore. Simply restate the rule and walk away.
Now I have heard some parent educators say that when you restate the rule as above, stay in the room to assure obedience. I think you have to decide which way works best. Regardless of whether you leave or stay, do not engage in an argument.
These are some tips I have found to be important in parenting children. I have posted this article on wibnewton.wordpress.com. Feel free to leave your comments and questions there. Good luck. Be strong and courageous. Summer is only nine months away.