With a small house and 5 kids under the age of 7, you would think I’d come on here and tell you all the Rules we made for our kids and how it made our life so fantastic. But I won’t. I can’t! We made a million and one rules to keep our house orderly and it became a disaster! That’s not to say rules are bad, but there should be a better method. You can’t shove rules in your kids’ faces to make them behave. You can’t list all the “don’ts and can’ts” and expect that to be followed. We all know the popular phrase, “Rules are Made to Be Broken!” right?
It’s safe to say most kids don’t even want rules period. They would rather play and do without consequences. But parents want to raise well behaved little children who don’t embarrass them out in public. (I add that last part from personal reflections)
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Why Do We Make Rules
We make rules to keep our kids safe. We, again, want them to be well behaved and express socially accepted behavior. But is this the right mindset? Listen to this little anecdote and decide for yourself.
When I started staying home with my kids I only had three, but the oldest was only 2 1/2 years old. I had my mind set on being one of the best moms. My kids weren’t going to throw tantrums, they were going to be pleasant in public (church, stores, restaurants, etc.), and they were going to feel loved and cherished. Making a long story short… I don’t think any of that happened. Most likely our kids inevitably felt loved, but I couldn’t understand HOW from my point of view.
I yelled. A lot. Still do, just much much less.
But I really couldn’t figure out what was going wrong. It was so frustrating to have it all organized and laid out. I made the rules, I stuck to the rules, I was consistent! All of my Special Education Training was being used on my kids, and yet something was off. Thanks to one little video, which lead to a ton more research and a very important book: Balanced and Barefoot. I had a life changing epiphany. (Quite frankly, I’ve had a multitude of epiphanies I hope to share with you on this blog.)
There Were Too Many Rules
The one major “thing” going wrong in my parenting during that time, was that I was constantly telling them, “Stop!” “Be nice!” “Put that down.” “Get down from there.” The list goes on and on. In fact, I was harping on my kids every time I was around them. Then I’d try to accomplish some other task (dinner, cleaning, reading, whatever) and get angry they weren’t following “the rules” while I was away.
Good Kids Follow the Rules Even When Their Parents Are Away
I believe this statement is very true, but these are for the kids who actually know what the rules are. Kids with too many rules are so confused at what’s right and what’s wrong, because a parent really can’t catch it all. A parent can’t be THAT consistent with consequences for rules broken unless they’re hovering over each child. Therefore a child will attempt to get away with things because they’re not so sure if it’s a “Major Offense” or not.
Kids who follow the rules are really following no more than ten or less, at least in the circumstances I’ve witnessed. So it’s up to parents to decide what rules are the most important rules. Parents have to try and generalize rules to fit multiple situations. An example of this is, “No Fighting!” instead of “no hitting, no kicking, no pinching, no yelling, etc.” For my house, “No Fighting!” is not a rule. I share this to let you know your rules will look different than others’. Do what’s best for your kids, your family, and ultimately you.
Here, outdoors, is where there is an abundance of unnecessary rules. In our household, we really try to keep the rules to indoors only. Jumping and climbing on the sofa and chairs are not allowed, but climb anything you want when you’re outside. Why? Because kids need to take risks to learn how to be safe. I, personally, want the outside to look much more enticing than indoors, so our children have little to no rules outside.
Why do I even tell you about there be virtually no rules outside? I tell you because of one particular reason that I believe helps our children attend to the indoor rules.
When our kids are outdoors for multiple hours a day. They’re being their creative selves and making believe whatever world they want without mom or dad telling them “Don’t do this, or that!” “Get down!” and any other “don’t” or “can’t”. Without those instructions our children get that independence they crave. They don’t feel as if someone is ALWAYS holding them back from their curiosities. They typically attend to our indoor rules better.
When we first set out to have our kids play unstructured outside for multiple hours a day, it took about a week before they stopped complaining about being outside and being bored. It also took a second week before we saw a big difference in their behaviors indoors. Our children had a lot of play stifled in them I suppose and it just took awhile to get all that excitement out. Be patient.
Plan to go Outside During All Sorts of Weather!
Rain or Shine, Cold or Hot, dress for the weather and get outside! Now we aren’t outside during tornadoes and lightning storms, but if it’s raining we will put on our rubber boots and rain jackets and go get muddy. [now you will want a system for yourself as to how to get everybody back in without getting the house disastrously filthy… but I promise it is worth it!]
When is it too cold to go outside? I don’t know. We put on our snow pants (we just get one color in every size so we can hand down clothes easier) and rain boots, hats, and gloves, and get moving! It’s fun to get bundled and go for a walk in the cold. Then come home and have some soup for lunch or a cup of hot cocoa.
Please! Go outside! It takes a lot to get out of your comfort zone to do THIS, but do it!
So How do I Make Rules for Kids?
It isn’t too hard, but it will take some thought on your part. You can begin by looking at the values you want your children to possess. In our home we looked directly at the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. There are twelve: Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. As a family, we decided these fruits should be at the center of our rules!
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23
Simplified rules such as “Love your Family” can make them easy to remember for both the parent and the kiddos. As a parent I can use “Love your Family” when I see my kids fighting, or not sharing, etc. The focus of the rule is to love the people in your family, instead of focusing on the “wrong act” such as No hitting, No fighting, No yelling.
What you focus on you will get more of…
So, as above, if I say Don’t jump on the couch! I am focusing on jumping. But if I say, “Sit Down on the couch, or feet on the ground, I’m focusing on what I want them to do. I can always add in, “Jumping is for outside.” or the trampoline, or wherever it’s okay for them to jump.
It is Okay if Your Rules Don’t Look Like Anyone Else’s.
In my house, we jump on the bed occasionally. The rule is not to jump on it when it’s made and we typically make our beds every morning. Many, many people I know are opposed to the idea of letting kids jump on the bed because they could get hurt. (Like above, I believe risk is good for kids. But before you think I just allow my kids to be reckless, read the book: Balanced and Barefoot)
It’s okay to have rules like no jumping on the furniture, just focus on the right “rule” eg. Sitting and Laying Only on the sofa.
There really freedom in doing things just for your family. So don’t focus on what your mom and dad are thinking you should be doing or your in-laws comments on your parenting. Your friend who has read a million and one parenting books or the one whose kids look like little silent angels who smile and obey willingly… you won’t need the same rules.
This is the time to get to know your kids personally, look at your house and your lifestyle, and ultimately focus on what you want for your family in the future. Talk it over with your husband/wife and make some educated decisions.