As parents we know rules are important but sometimes we can get the balance wrong. We can get too intense about rules that really aren’t important and let really important rules – like showing respect – slip. The team at Parents Plus have some very good tips here in the Parents Plus Children’s programme. Remember that if you are finding parenting very challenging you can talk to one of the Family Support Workers or Youth Workers on the team at the Donegal Parent Support Line. You can phone 1800 112277 (free of charge) or PM the Parent Hub Donegal Facebook page and one of the team will be in touch.
The importance of rules
Getting the balance right – good parenting is essentially about balance. Good parenting is about achieving a balance between supporting and encouraging children to make decisions for themselves.
Be clear about rules
Often parents are confused about what rules they should make and when they should let children decide. In fact, it is a very common mistake to make unnecessary rules (such as directing a child’s play) but not to insist on important rules (such as respect).
It is useful to distinguish between
- core rules
- negotiable rules
- decisions children can make for themselves
Core rules are the rules that are most important for your children to keep. These rules are non-negotiable and your children need to be helped to keep them at all times. Core rules should be kept to an absolute minimum – and should only involve things like:
- Safety – wearing a seat belt, not going out late at night
- Education – completing homework
- Health – taking their medicine, going to bed on time to be rested
- Respect – speaking politely (no shouting or aggression)
The Golden Rule – Respect
The last core rule – respect – is one of the most important rules of all. During behaviour problems it is the rule that is most often broken and parents often let their children away with this rule. The rule of respect is one of the most important rules to insist upon and to help your children to keep.
There are rules where there is some room to manoeuvre, where it is appropriate to negotiate with children. These are areas where you have a bottom line as a parent, but where your child can make some choices about the details. For example:
- your child can negotiate when he can do the chore but the chore must be done
- your child can negotiate what coat to wear but he must wear a coat going out
Decisions Children Can Make For Themselves
There are many areas where it is important for children to decide what to do for themselves. For example:
- what game to play
- what book to read at night
- what clothes to wear (within reason)
As a child gets older there are more and more situations where they should be encouraged to make their own decisions. The aim is to prepare them so by the age of 18 years, they can make all the decisions for themselves!
Discuss Rules with your Children
Plan to sit down with your children and discuss the core rules of the house. It is a good ideas to encourage children to come up with ideas to identify the rules first. This helps them take ownership and it allows you to write the rules down in their words. You may be surprised to see that most children often identify the correct rules that you wanted in the first place.
Discuss all rules in advance with children and write them down in a clear positive way that everyone can understand. Some families display these in a public place in the house for everyone to see. Some families also display them in a private place in the house (e.g. inside a cupboard door) so only family members can see them.
Parents are in Charge
One of the most important things to remember is that as a parent, you are in charge. You make the decisions about what core rules are and what decisions children can negotiate. While you might consult with children about rules, and take their ideas into account (and we do encourage this) you are the parents and you are in charge – you finally decide what the rules are.
Realising your own authority and being assertive about rules is a very important part of parenting.
You can find more tips and resources from Parents Plus here https://www.parentsplus.ie/parents/tips-and-information/