Guide to Establishing House Rules for Kids

Happy families are all alike; they made an effort and took the time to set up rules for kids when it mattered. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. The challenges of parenting are real but also not too difficult to overcome. Establishing house rules for kids in time will work for you and the benefit of your loved ones for years to come.

All that is good starts with preparation

If you have children, you already know that questions are the foundation of learning. To help your kids understand the rules and their importance, prepare for their enquiries in advance. You need to research and grasp the following topics before building a solid family structure.

  • Why do we need house rules?
  • Which important types of rules are there?
  • What does establishing family rules look like in practice?
  • Are there any exceptions?

However, it would help if you were careful not to stifle your children with an extensive set of family rules that is too difficult to understand and follow at their age. Taking small but firm steps will get you far.

Why are house rules essential?

The only way to expand your horizons is to have boundaries in the first place. The same applies to establishing house rules for kids. Within those guidelines, children get the opportunity to learn about the dos and don’ts and expand their understanding of the world in an orderly, secure, consistent, and disciplined manner.

Three kids play with toy cars in a park

The home rules are there to teach the kids to behave outside the house, too.

Family rules prepare children for public and social interactions and help them mature into emotionally healthy and socially well-adjusted adults.

Above all, the house rules protect children but not only as a set of safety guidelines. They act as a safety net and as a ground for bouncing off again when things get difficult in life. A good family structure serves to provide kids comfort and stability.

Every house rule is equally important

Different rules inform children about various aspects of human behaviour and shape their character. That being said, there aren’t more or less significant rules. All types of rules have a vital role.

They instil a sense of safety and morality in a child and help develop healthy social skills and habits. These rules should also teach them how to cope with challenges and prepare the child for everything the grown-up life may bring.

Safety first

The imperative and an ever-present concern of every caregiver and parent is keeping their little one safe. It is vital to address both emotional and physical safety when establishing house rules for kids. You can do the former by assuring your child that it is perfectly alright to express their feelings as long as they do it respectfully and choose kind words. Prove it by being there to listen and advise in the same manner.

The foundations of the latter start with simple rules that restrict answering doors to strangers, running out on the street, climbing furniture, playing with toys unsuitable for their age, or perusing tools or cleaning chemicals unsupervised.

Even some of the best home rules have little effect without supervision

A toddler is escaping a sandbox area while the mother isn’t looking.

Most parents perceive the new environment as a fertile ground for a host of potential injuries. This is especially obvious during the chaos after family relocation. So, before you allow your children to explore and personalize their new home, learn how to kid-proof it with ease and then oversee their activities.

Rules that form moral values

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is setting and explaining the rules that teach moral values. Rules such as: treat others kindly, tell the truth, play fair, express more than an equivalent set of don’ts. Use positive wording instead of negative forms to make the job easier and help kids understand these abstract terms.

Building health and hygiene habits

Hygiene habits are often introduced first, at a very young age, and they set a foundation for all other rules to come. From brushing their tiny teeth after each meal and potty training to tidying their room and putting dirty clothes in a laundry hamper, these rules prepare the ground for other healthy habits.

Social skills and etiquette

Teaching your child to knock before entering, introduce themselves, share toys or take turns playing a game with a sibling or friend takes time but is a basis for useful social skills later in life.

A family of three is establishing house rules for kids over dinner.

Older kids will greatly benefit from learning how to behave at a table or during a large gathering.

As a parent, you should practice what you preach as your children will mostly learn from your example.

A practical checklist to set up home rules for children

No two home rules checklists are the same, but they all share a few common traits.

  1. A list of rules should address the most obvious and frequent issues. Present them, ask family members for opinions on ways to fix them, then set up a rule and explain it.
  2. The rules work best in written form. Kids have a rather selective memory, don’t you think?
  3. Explain the outcomes of following and disobeying the rules. Praise or criticize specific behaviour. Both positive and negative actions should have adequate consequences.
  4. Just as your kids grow, so should your family rules evolve. Adjust the number and complexity of rules to your kids’ age and ability to understand them.
  5. Empower your kids to provide input, discuss, and set up a rule they feel strongly about. Perhaps you might learn something about yourself by listening to their point of view.

House rules are family rules

Consistency is what makes a simple house rule a family law. A rule that applies to all is a rule that is obeyed. Set an example yourself if you want your children to agree and follow the household rules you’ve devised. Parents are their children’s first and the most important role models, which makes their job of establishing house rules for kids even more responsible. To paraphrase the old saying: don’t do unto your kids what you don’t want to be done by them.

1 Comment

  1. Totally agree that moral values are important and should always start at home.

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