Families are often confused as to what rules they should establish. Many have never even established the understanding that they should agree on any specific family rules. Others copy lists or make up lists and struggle to agree with spouses over which things to include.
First of all, realize that the fewer family rules, the better. It is best to have only as many rules as both parents are willing to enforce.
Also, you cannot make rules to cover every situation. It is better to teach principles and develop judgment when using Family Rules than to teach strict obedience to a memorized list of rules.
Here are three Family Rules which I believe cover all situations:
- Children obey your parents (and other parent-sanctioned authority).
- Do what you say you will do.
- Do not hurt another.
The first is the only biblical mandate for children. The second and third are the two common laws which all societies agree on and which have stood the test of time and cultures.
If you feel a need to mandate love, you could add:
- Love God first and your neighbor as yourself.
When you find a rule has been broken, speak to the child or children involved. Begin by asking each child to tell you what he did. (Do not get into a “he said, she said” or he did so I did… Just what did YOU do?)
From there, go on to ask the appropriate questions:
Was this loving?
Did this hurt anyone or their property?
Did you do what you said you would do?
Did you obey?
Would Mommy/Daddy be proud of you if she/he saw you doing this?
If you hurt or disobeyed someone, what do you think you need to do? (Apologize, help right the wrong if you can)
Have you done that yet?
Who else did you offend? (God)
Let’s pray now and ask God to forgive and wash us clean!
Having rules implies that we will teach children to obey and live by them. It also requires that we have a system of enforcement available.
At times, it is important to have the child or children ALSO face a punishment. This may be restriction of privileges, loss of free time, banishment of favorite toys or some other unique solution. One friend of mine made a spinner with four different punishments; the child was allowed to spin to find the punishment for the offence. The options were: ½ hour of extra chores, move the wood pile, spend ½ hour sitting on the “hot seat,” and mop and wax the kitchen floor.
I remember when I had three boys who found it fun to spit at other children. Their punishment? I had them spend one entire recess period spitting into the toilet (in the boys’ bathroom in front of me)! They were embarrassed to have me in there with them. They found it difficult to keep saliva enough to continue spitting. They were not allowed to laugh or make fun of each other. They never spit again.
Make the punishment fit the crime, or be a natural outcome of the behavior whenever possible.