How to Create Household Rules for Kids

Create clear expectations and consequences

Create a clear list of household rules.
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Kids behave best when they have a clear understanding of the rules. But, many parents aren’t sure what rules they should be creating.

And when parents are uncertain of the rules, they may enforce consequences inconsistently, depending on their mood or circumstances. Creating a clear list of household rules is the best way to reduce behavior problems and increase discipline consistency.

Reasons for Rules

Establishing a set of household rules helps kids understand which behaviors are acceptable, and which ones are off limits.

Rules teach kids how to deal with their emotions and how to treat others with respect.

A list of household rules can also help kids understand how rules differ in different environments. For example, it may be acceptable to yell at the playground but that's not OK in the library. Establishing written rules helps kids know what is okay in your home.

A written set of rules can also help ensure that all the caregivers are on the same page. Whether you hire a babysitter or Grandma comes over for a visit, everyone will know your expectations when the rules are clearly posted on the fridge.

Rules can also be a reminder for adults who are trying to model positive behaviors for the kids. If the rule states that everyone must pick up their dishes, it is important for the adults to do so as well and a written set of rules can help reinforce this.

Written rules also give kids an opportunity to remind one another of the rules.

A child might say to a friend who comes over for a play date, “At my house we’re not allowed to jump on the couch.” This is a sign of a parent who has been clear about the expectations.

Create a Written List of Rules

It is important that you write out the list of rules and hang them in a prominent location.

Keeping the rules on the refrigerator or displayed somewhere where everyone can see them is a good reminder.

When creating the list of rules, don’t list every single rule imaginable. Make it a simple list, not a policy and procedures manual. Try to limit it to the 10 most important rules. 

Word the rules positively if you can. Instead of saying, “Don’t throw your clothes on the floor,” try using, “Place your dirty clothes in the hamper.” Make a list of what “to do” instead of “what not to do” when possible.

Get the kids involved in making the rules. Ask their opinion about what sorts of things they think are important when creating the rules and try to include some of their ideas. It can help get kids more invested in following the rules.

Establish Consequences

When kids follow the rules, there should be positive consequences. Praise your child for following the rules. Consider using rewards as incentives. For example, if your child followed all the rules today, allow him to use his electronics after dinner.

When your child violates the rules, establish a negative consequence that will deter him from breaking the rule again. Negative consequences may include things such as loss of privileges or a time-out.

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