Developing family rules

Why is it important to develop family rules?


Setting family rules is the first step to establishing boundaries for your child’s behavior. Rules tell your children what you value, what is important to you and your family. When rules are enforced, it is an opportunity for children to practice making decisions and dealing with the consequences of their choices. Boundaries that you set will help guide your child’s behavior.

Michigan State University Extension has some tips to help set and enforce family rules.

Keep the rules simple. The more complicated a rule, the harder it is to remember. Keep your rules short and simple so it is easier for young children to learn and remember. Rules for young children should be very easy to understand and there should be as few rules as possible.

Make sure rules are enforceable. Rules or boundaries should be connected to consequences, or what will happen if the rule is broken. Set consequences that are fair and reasonable and give your child the opportunity to learn to make better choices in the future.

Enforce rules consistently. If a rule is only enforced some of the time, your child will notice and they will learn that the rule doesn’t need to be followed. Make sure you enforce rules consistently and as soon as possible. This helps build a cause-and-effect relationship for your child (if I do this, then this will happen). This will help them learn to make better choices in the future.

Remind the rule. Kids need lots of reminders about rules and boundaries. Post a picture chart for your family rules in the house where your child will be able to see them regularly. Remind your child of the rules often, and give the warnings so they have the opportunity to change their behavior before facing consequences.

Remember that rules are for everyone. If you set a rule for your family and you break it, you are sending a message to your child that you do not value that rule. It’s important to practice what you preach and impact upon your child that the rule is so important, even you will follow it.

Family rules can help calm the chaos and set limits that will help your child understand boundaries and learn to make good choices.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2017 impact report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2017, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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