Parents often institute rules for children out of a necessity to instill order and balance in the household; however, these rules are often not clearly defined and explained. Furthermore, they are usually for the children only. The healthiest rules you can give children are the ones that parents and caregivers should be following as well. By making a list of family rules you are setting a pleasant tone in the household and uniting the family.
- Consider other people’s feelings: In the heat of the moment it’s easy to see a certain situation from your perspective only. In fact, it is almost impossible to stop your reaction when you are wronged and instead consider the other persons intentions and feelings. However, when parents learn to consider the whole situation from their child’s point of view it can help resolve problems more quickly. It will also teach your children to do the same.
- Solve problems with your words: All problems can be solved with words. Unfortunately, it also usually takes much longer to do so. Good communication is necessary, and sacrifice is often required by both parties. This is why children and even parents so easily resort to using their bodies to fix problems. It is important to remember that if the solution to a problem does not involve compromise, it will usually not last. The problem will resurface and you will have to face it once again.
- Find a kind way to say what you need to say: There will always be negative things that need to be said. At some point, everyone in the family will be angry and issues will need to be addressed. However, there is always a kind way to say what you need to say. That goes for both you and for your children. When your child has not cleaned his room after being asked a dozen times to do so, there is a kind way to address the issue. When your four-year-old is mad because you are not giving her candy before dinner, there is a nice way for her to tell you how she feels.
- Work to heal relationships that have been hurt: Saying “I am sorry” is usually just the first step to healing a broken relationship. Most of the time, the second step involves helping to fix what was physically or emotionally broken. For younger children, this can mean a hug or handshake. It can mean that they help rebuild the tower that was knocked over or repair the plate that was broken. For older children and adults, it can mean that they show a commitment to the relationship by sacrificing something important to them.
- Work hard and do your best: You cannot be perfect at everything. Good grades are not always the best judge of hard work. Sometimes the A students are really not working hard at all and sometimes the D students are trying their hardest to learn the lessons. Hard work is something that is seen and felt. Setting the rule to do your best and work hard gives your child a good work ethic. It leaves them feeling proud of their own accomplishments, even if those accomplishments seem small to the outside world.
- Be honest and tell the truth: Honesty is the bedrock of every healthy relationship. Giving importance to this rule gives strength to the family. When you tell your kids that what they do does not matter as much as being honest about what they do, your children will be more likely to come to you with difficult issues as they get older. However, this rule – like all the family rules – must go both ways. Honesty is often difficult for parents to achieve. There are times when your children are very young that you may choose to withhold specific details of events that the child would not fully understand. However, children easily sense when the truth is being withheld from them. Honesty really is always the best policy.
- Show forgiveness and grace: Forgiveness means to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for a mistake or offense. Without forgiveness a relationship will fall apart because everyone makes mistakes and offends others at some point. To show grace means that you give someone good things, even when they have done something that would cause you to be resentful. It is easy to say you have forgiven someone, but it is not until grace is shown that forgiveness is complete.
- Treat your property with care: These days it is very easy to go out and buy a new toy, electronic device or piece of furniture that is ruined. Some families may have a harder time affording to do this than others, but the stuff itself is easily accessible. When children grow up seeing their possessions as things that are easily replaced it does not help them learn value in life. Expecting your children to take care of their property will help them learn to take value in what they are given and in what is earned. Instead of quickly replacing the toy that was broken, try to help your children fix it or let them know how they can earn the money to replace it. Sometimes the best way to understand how to care for your belongings is to feel the pain and sadness that occurs when you break or lose something that will never be replaced.
- Treat other people’s property with respect: It is pretty common for adults to see something that someone else has and imagine themselves with it. Most of the time this leads to us wishing we had the same thing. Children are no different. The younger they are the quicker they demand to have whatever they see. It is important for children to learn early on that they will not get everything they want and that other people’s property should be honored and left alone.
- Work together: Family unity and a sense of togetherness are important to a healthy and happy family. When parents and caregivers work well together children see that a lot can be accomplished through team work.
Perfection is not an option. You will not succeed in always following the rules and never making mistakes. In fact, you and your children will most likely break these rules frequently. The important thing is that both you and your children are working to create a healthy and loving place to live and grow.