Parents will know that house rules are sometimes a spur of the moment — they’re created when a situation arises that could have been avoided or better handled. A rule like "only paint outside" may have come about because your toddler decided to use the sofa as his canvas for his art time.
Moms and dads also know, however, that there are essential rules that need to be present from the start. Below are a few. Remember, rules stick better when they’re consistently imposed and are established while your child is still young.
1. “Everyone cleans up their mess.” It shouldn’t be mom’s sole responsibility to clean and tidy the house. After all, you’re not the only one living in it! Teaching kids how to clean up after themselves not only lessen your workload but also instills in them a sense of responsibility they will carry until they’re adults, said Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, a psychologist and marriage and family counselor, in an article for PsychCentral.
How to: For young kids, teach how to clean up by doing it together. Have a designated keeping place (bins, boxes, low shelves, etc.) for everything. Make it fun! Your child will need lots of step-by-step encouragement at first, but she'll soon get the hang of the routine in no time. Find a list of more chores (for ages 2 to 7) here.
2. “Share and ask permission before borrowing.” Lots of sibling fights stem from an unwillingness to share and taking without asking permission. Developmentally, toddlers and preschoolers will have trouble with sharing because they haven’t grown enough. But, this shouldn’t stop you from teaching them the concept early.
How to: For toddlers, model and practice sharing whenever possible at home. To your little one, say, “Want some of my popcorn?” or “Come sit with us -- we’ll make room for you.” Try and use the word “share” whenever you can, so your child will be able to pick up on what it means sooner.
For older kids, explain the rules of sharing and borrowing. For example, if the toy is his, it will be easier for your child to share if he knows he’ll get it back after. Use a timer if it makes sharing easier. More tips on teaching children to share can be found here. 3. “Manners are a must.” Manners are more than “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” They’re outward expressions of respect, consideration, and kindness towards other people. Raising a child who is not rude or disrespectful starts with practicing manners at home.
How to: If your child is used to hearing family members say polite words, it’s likely she’ll follow suit. Say “please” when you ask her to do something and thank her when you see fit. She’ll soon follow suit. However, try not to force it. Demanding the “magic word” before giving your child everything and anything she wants might only backfire. Find more tips on how to teach your child to be well-mannered here.
4. “Screen time rules are law.” Research is piling up on the damage prolonged screen use can have on young children — from sleep problems and speech delay to even long-term brain damage from what experts are now calling “Screen Dependency Disorder.” Mom, take charge of managing the balanced use of technology at home.
How to: Set clear and specific rules early and make sure they’re followed. Have consequences when the rules are broken. In celeb mom Judy Ann Santos’ home, for example, the kids stick to a strict “1 hour” rule. Find practical tips on gadget use in kids from an expert here.
5. “The family eats breakfast/dinner together.” With busy schedules, a rule like this may seem unnecessary and too much to ask. But, enjoying mom or dad’s delicious cooking as one family makes way for a deeper purpose. Family meals strengthen bonds, encourages open communication, and fosters a sense of belongingness. All children, from toddler to teen, need family time together, said experts.
“When kids are part of a family unit that spends time together, they are more likely to feel supported, safe, and loved unconditionally. This holds true for kids of all ages and in all kinds of families,” said Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford University, and her colleagues, according to an article on the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
How to: Make family dinner together a priority. Having dinner at roughly the same time every day helps establish the rule and makes it easier for everyone to follow it. Make family meals a time of the day everyone looks forward to by initiating conversation and sharing stories. To quote Pope Francis, “At the table we talk, at the table we listen.”
Have a rule in your home that should be added to this list? Feel free to share it with other moms and dads in the comments section below!