How to Create Family Rules with Kids

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One of the most important things that you can do as a parent is to establish family rules with kids.  This may seem like a complete no-brainer, but many of us are guilty of assuming that our kids know the rules when they really don’t.

So I’m going to share 5 tips for creating family rules with kids that will make your life easier and your kids’ behavior better!

Establishing Family Rules

1. Create a Master List of Ideas

Knowing what is expected of us is essential to compliance.  That’s why creating simple rules for your family is fundamental to appropriate behavior.  

This is actually a very simple activity, but one that will pay dividends in the long run.  

Start by grabbing a sheet of notebook paper and a pen.  Have your kids and your spouse join you at the kitchen table or on the couch.  Then explain to them that you want to create some family rules that will help everyone remember what is most important in your home.  

Start by listing out all of the things you think are important.  If someone mentions it, it needs to go on the list.  This will validate everyone in the family (including the youngest member) and let them know that their thoughts and opinions are important.

Quick tip: Framing the rules in a positive light will help your kids see what they should be doing instead of what they should NOT be doing.  Instead of saying, “No complaining,” create a rule that says, “Choose an attitude of gratitude.“  

2. Combine Specific Rules into as Few General Rules as Possible

Once you have a master list, see if you can combine a few of the specific rules into just a few general rules.  Keeping the number to 4 or fewer will help everyone know the expectations and parameters without feeling like they live in a prison.  

If you’re struggling to think of how to combine similar rules, here are a few examples…

  • Keep hands (and other body parts) to yourself
  • Pick up after yourself (get as specific as needed)
  • Use kind words (tone & language)
  • Choose an attitude of gratitude (no complaining)

Remember, there are no right or wrong rules for your family…they just need to be set in stone!

My dad recently told me that my great aunt, who ran a daycare for about 50 years, gave him some advice when I was just a baby that he’s never forgotten.  She told him, “Create as few rules as possible, but make sure that those rules are ironclad.”

In other words, make sure that the rules you and your kids create are few but set in stone!  This will provide consistency and help EVERYONE in the family know what is expected.

3. Create a Master List of Family Rules & Post Them

Once you have decided on your final list of rules, you need to post them where they can be seen.

And if you are anything like me, you want things that are posted in plain sight to be pretty.

So I’ve created this free Family Rules printable for you to print, write your rules on, and post in a central location.

(To access this freebie, you can click the image or this link to be taken to the FREE Printable Library!)

In our house, the most central location is the fridge…mostly because my kids spend at least half of their lives in front of it!  

Having your rules in a “high traffic” area keeps them on each person’s mind.  Then if a reminder is needed, the rules are readily accessible.

4.  Create Appropriate Rewards and Consequences

If your kids enjoyed taking part in creating the rules, they will LOVE helping you design appropriate rewards and consequences for obeying/disobeying the rules.

This is their opportunity to exact their sinister plans share their thoughts.  And interestingly, you will find they create much harsher punishments than you ever will.  So you want to make sure that each consequence fits the broken rule.

Let me give you an example.

My dad grew up with 11 brothers and sisters, so they spent a lot of time entertaining themselves, which basically meant they got in trouble frequently.

So after one particularly frustrating exchange between my dad and his younger brother, Harold, my grandmother sent them out to find switches.  But the twist was that she told them they had to bring back switches for each other.

Well, my dad wasn’t going to let this golden opportunity pass him by so he found what he termed, “a nice, healthy-looking switch” for my grandmother to use on my uncle.  When he proudly returned with the switch, he looked up to see my uncle dragging a full size tree limb!

It was at that point that my dad realized his brother intended for my grandmother to kill him with that limb!!  Ultimately, my grandmother got so tickled at the incident that they were able to bypass a true thrashing.

TRUE STORY!!!

But I shared that to say this…as the parent, make sure to create family rules with kids that include appropriate consequences that fit the “crime.”

Here are some examples…

  • Clean up a mess you made intentionally before doing something fun
  • Loss of a privilege for a day or a set amount of time
  • Removal of toys (or other things) when treated carelessly

You can use all of these or none of them.  The only thing that matters is that the consequence makes sense.

Once you and your kids have created a list of appropriate consequences, you need to create a list of appropriate rewards.  This will be what you can refer to when you see that your child is following the rules and showing self-control.

Some examples of great rewards…

Quick tip: Make sure that the consequences & rewards are directly related to the rules.  This makes each more meaningful.  It also helps your child understand that you believe rules are important.

5. Refer to the Rules & Update Them as Needed

Don’t assume that once you create the rules everything will run perfectly smooth.  The truth is that kids (and adults) have to be reminded of the rules as well as the rewards and consequences associated with the rules.

Implementing behavior charts with your kids is a simple way to help them remember the family rules!

And even though I mentioned in tip #3 about making sure that your rules are ironclad and consistent, there will be times when a rule needs to be changed or updated as your circumstances change.  

There should ALWAYS be consistency, but as our kids get older our expectations and rules need to align with their level of maturity.  Be consistent in your expectations and adjust the rules, rewards, and consequences as needed.

The keys to creating family rules with kids that have lasting impacts are…

  • Making sure everyone’s ideas are heard and validated
  • Grouping specific rules into 4 (or fewer) general rules
  • Posting a master list in an obvious location
  • Creating appropriate rewards and consequences
  • Referring to the rules and updating them as needed

By spending time together creating these rules, you will set your family up for success.