Just like societies, companies, and schools have rules, or codes of conduct, a house needs its own rules too. The primary aim of having house rules is to support our children in learning the boundaries within which they need to live, and it is our responsibility as parents or guardians to establish and help our children adhere to such rules. House rules help to create a healthy living environment by enabling our children to realise that each family member has an important role to play in building up a strong and harmonious family, as well as learn how to cooperate with each other. In this way, children can begin to develop their own sense of mutual respect, accountability, and responsibility – qualities that are ultimately critical to both the child’s, the family’s, and society’s wellbeing.
Here are some tips that can help you get started on creating your own set of house rules:
It is important that the children’s age is taken into consideration when creating house rules.
Age should dictate the number and complexity of the house rules. For instance, for younger children, try to focus on setting a few of the most important rules at first, such as establishing bedtime or knocking on closed doors before entering. You can then add more rules as the child learns to follow the existing ones consistently.
Ensure that all family members are involved in the process.
In this way, the child is likely to feel more encouraged to adhere to the rules if they feel involved, rather than it being something imposed on them.
Parents need to set the right examples.
Your child will follow the house rules if they see them being role modelled by their parents.For example, if the child sees the parents waiting their turn to talk and respectfully listening to each other, the child may be more likely to abide by the rule of not interrupting each other while talking.
House rules need to be clear, specific, and followed consistently.
Setting specific rules, such as no gadgets during mealtimes, helps everyone to know what is expected, which will in turn help to avoid misunderstandings and conflict. Furthermore, when applied consistently, house rules are more likely to become habitual, thus increasing the chance of achieving the desired outcome. When certain house rules become habitual, these can then be removed and replaced with new ones that require attention.
Post rules where everyone can see them.
Having a visual display of the rules will help everyone to remember and reinforce them. It also makes it easier to refer back to the rules whenever needed.
Consequences for breaking the house rules need to be discussed and made clear right from the outset.
Some common consequences may include no screen time, or no access to a favourite toy or activity. It is also equally important to acknowledge when everyone is doing a good job at abiding by the rules. For example, offering praise helps to encourage the child to continue following the house rules, whilst creating a sense of mastery and satisfaction.
House rules will take time, patience, discipline, and commitment; however, they will also help to shape our children’s character and prepare them for the outside world, whilst enabling the family to live more peacefully together.
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Dr. Ronald Zammit holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Southampton, has completed Master’s level psychotherapy training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at the New Buckinghamshire University in the UK, as well as received training in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). He has a special interest in mood and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related difficulties, personality disorders, and compassion-based approaches to treating difficulties related to high self-criticism and shame.