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Does My Family Need Family Rules?

By Life, Family Fun Team


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Rules. They are the cornerstones of our societies, our schools, and our…families? It may seem strangely formal to institute a series of rules for your family unit, but the fact of the matter is that your family likely already is operating under some form of rules, whether they are verbalized or not. After all, there is a reason why we have rules in just about every other facet of our existence — they work!

Family Rules

In this article, we will go over the most common rules that functional families implement, and will offer an overview of how to implement family rules within your particular ecosystem.

What are Family Rules?

A family rule is a type of guideline that dictates what behavior is expected from a member of a family, most often a child.

How are Family Rules Determined?

As all families are unique, it’s difficult to determine a type of pre-set rules that will work for every household. Instead, it is more beneficial to lay out a criteria for family rules that are destined to succeed. Some of the most common attributes that successful rules have in common include:

  • Predictability
  • Consistency
  • Enforceable
  • Reasonable
  • Mutually beneficial

How Many Family Rules Should There Be?

Much like there is no right answer to the types of rules that a family should have, it can also be difficult to determine a number of rules that are right for a specific family. In order to not overwhelm children, it is generally a good idea to start with a small number of rules, such as one or two. If these rules have a smooth integration within your family, you can then start to slowly add more rules.

How Do I Make Up Family Rules?

If you are looking to incorporate rules into your family structure, it can be overwhelming. However, there is a method to rule creation. Here are some important things to keep in mind when you are attempting to draft a list of rules for your family:

1. Identify an area in which rules could help your family — and be specific

This may sound vague, but bear with us. Chances are, even if you have a family that appears to be functional for all intents and purposes, there is one area where you can improve. For some families, this will mean interrupting one another less and listening more carefully. For some families, it will mean to stop slamming doors or walking with heavy footsteps on the hallway.

A helpful exercise is to sit down and be specific in which areas you would like to see improvement within your particular family unit. Oftentimes, these simple proclamations or goals can easily turn into a rule.

2. Communicate the rules effectively

It goes without saying that rules are only as effective as their followers. While it’s one thing to have personal rules or guidelines for yourself, if you would like to maintain rules as a family unit it is important that you effectively communicate the rules you have chosen together.

While some families may find it sufficient to simply verbally communicate their rules, some families may find it helpful to have rules displayed on a cork board or whiteboard or even chalkboard.

3. Enforce the rules consistently

If rules do not carry any consequences, it is not likely that they will be respected. In order for a set of family rules to be successful, they need to exist not only in theory but in practice, too. Even though it may be tempting to delay the enforcement of rules, it is of the utmost importance that you apply the rules consistently so as to not confuse anyone who is covered by them.

4. Review the rules periodically

Just like any other system, families evolve over time. In order to determine that your rules can best serve your family, it is important that you collectively take the time to review the rules on occasion to ensure that they are continuing to serve your family well.

5. Follow the rules yourself

This may seem to go without saying, but it is especially important to reiterate this point if you are setting out rules for young children. If you would like the rules that you have set forth for your family to be respected, you will need to respect the rules yourself —doing anything else could send the message that you are above the rules or that rules are not meant to be taken seriously.

Why are Family Rules Important?

Family rules are an important part of a functional family unit as they act as a kind of guiding light for children. Not only do rules help children have a clear understanding of what is acceptable, but it will also help instill in them a respect for and an understanding of rules, which will help them in other areas of life which will inevitably have rules that are meant to be followed.

Help —My Children Break All of the Family Rules

As the old adage says, sometimes rules are just meant to be broken. If you find that your children are not respecting any of your family rules, it’s easy to become discouraged or even resentful. However, the breaking of rules is not a sign that the rule is failing. In fact, it is entirely common for family rules to be broken, even on a consistent basis. It is all part of the family rule process.

Children often don’t break rules out of malicious intent. Instead, they often simply forget that rules exist. While this may be a hard concept for an adult to understand, keep in mind that children’s brains operate in a manner that is quite different — it’s easy for us to take our adult brains for granted, but structure is complicated for a child.

The pivotal point is not whether or not a rule is broken. It is whether or not you respond to a rule in a consistent manner. If you fail to do so, you run the risk of further confusing your children and jeopardizing the enforceability of your rules in the future.

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