Sample List of Household Rules for the Entire Family

Examples and Inspiration for Your Own List

Get your child involved in creating your list of household rules.
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If you're like most parents, you may struggle to list your household rules off the top off your head. Although you know what behavior is acceptable (and what isn't), labeling your expectations may be a little tricky.

That's why it's important to create a written list of household rules. Then, everyone in the family becomes clear about your expectations. Rules also help kids feel safe and secure. When your rules are clear, you'll be less likely to get into power struggles.

Your child's attempts to say, "But Mom, I didn't know!" won't be effective when you remind him of the list of rules.

What to Include in Your List of Household Rules

Household rules should include the rules that everyone in the house is expected to follow, including parents. So don't include, “Bedtime is at 7 p.m.,” unless you also plan to go to bed at that time.

Your household rules should be specific to your family's needs and values. While it might be important to one family to say, “No jumping on the furniture,” another family may want a rule that says, “Try at least two bites of everything on your plate.”

A lengthy list of rules could become too complicated and confusing, so keep your list short and simple. Here is a sample list of household rules:

1. Treat other people and their property with respect.

  • Do not hurt anyone’s feelings (no yelling, put-downs, or name calling).
  • Do not hurt anyone’s body (no hitting, pushing, or kicking).
  • Ask permission to borrow other people’s belongings.

Implement an immediate consequence if this rule gets broken. Time-out or loss of privileges can help kids learn to make better choices. This is a good rule for parents as well as kids as you need to model appropriate behavior and anger control.

2. Knock on closed doors before entering.

Teach kids about privacy by establishing a rule about knocking on closed doors before entering.

This can help reinforce the idea that you should respect other people's space.

3. Pick up after yourself.

Explain what it means to pick up after yourself. Tell your child to put her dishes in the dishwasher when she's done eating. Or explain that you expect your children to pick up their toys before they get out new toys. This rule enhances household safety and cleanliness and develops good habits for when your children will go on to live independently.

4. Electronics curfew.

Many families establish rules about electronics. While some families limit screen time to a couple of hours per day, others set rules about what time electronics need to be turned off. Setting a curfew for electronics before bedtime can help develop good sleep hygiene for both children and parents which enables you to get a better night's sleep for health.

5. Make amends when you hurt someone.

Teach kids to take responsibility for their behavior by creating a rule about how to respond if they’ve hurt someone. Sometimes an apology may be enough and at other times, you may need to institute restitution as a consequence.

6. Tell the truth.

Stressing the importance of honesty will only be effective if you role model the behavior you want to see from your kids.

If you tell your kids to always tell the truth, but claim your 13-year-old is only 12 so you can get a lower-priced movie ticket, your words won’t be effective. Kids can’t tell the difference between “white lies” and other lies so if you’re going to stress the importance of honesty, show that you're honest.

7. Complete your dental and body hygiene routines.

Washing hands, brushing teeth, and bathing must be done for good health. Establish these as a rule so your children develop good habits, and don't shirk them yourself.

8. Attend family meetings once a week.

Holding regularly scheduled family meetings can help you review the rules, talk about schedules, and make any changes as necessary.

While some families may want to schedule a meeting once a week, other families may find that meeting once a month is plenty.

Revise Your List as Needed

Work together as a family to problem-solve specific issues. For example, if you’re noticing that several family members aren’t picking up after themselves, talk about it and see what you can do to better enforce this rule.

Be open to revising the list of rules as needed. As your children grow and mature, the behaviors you'll want to address will shift as well. Add new rules when necessary.

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