How Do You Set Good Family Rules?
” The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.” – Benjamin Spock, Dr. “Spock’s Baby and Child Care”
Let’s focus on how to set boundaries (family rules), the power of intermittent reinforcement, and the importance of consistency.
A couple of years ago, I was providing some parent training for a wonderful family. Their 11-year old son was good at testing limits and pushing boundaries. His parents were responsive to my suggestions and trying to be consistent and clear with their son about the rules.
Additionally they were learning to reward his positive choices, supervise his behavior, and praise his hard work by letting him earn some privileges.
It seemed to be going well; however, once in a while I found myself reminding them to share control, but to stay in charge. One day, they asked me, “What’s the difference between the two?”
I used the following analogy to illustrate the difference between them being in control and being in charge. They found it very useful, and I hope you do as well.
Family Rules, The Cruise Control Analogy
Allowing your kid to be in charge is sort of like letting cruise control drive your car! Sure, in your car you could share some aspects of driving, because you set the parameters and closely supervise the process.
But you’d never leave cruise control in charge of your car because cruise control doesn’t know how to avoid accidents, merge, or when to slow down. Guaranteed – if you left your cruise control in charge, you’d never reach your destination!
Kids Want and Need Boundaries
There’s no doubt – all kids need limits and boundaries. As they grow, kids learn to define their environment in terms of rules and limits, whether it’s at home, or at school, or learning social norms through interaction with friends.
Children need principles to guide them, but they don’t always remember or understand why they need the rules and principles. I know the need to explain continually makes your job more difficult as a parent because you want to set some rules and feel that you have to explain why all the time!
The family rules in each home are usually governed by the parents and influenced by factors such as family traditions, culture, and the child’s expectations and needs. Rules may vary from family to family, but I’ve learned over the years that the foundation for safety parameters, and boundaries to protect the child’s rights and well being, are the same across many cultures and families.
Conventional wisdom, religious or spiritual belief, common sense, and regional laws support you in what you may call, “The rules under our roof.”
Dr. Sherkat is a parent strategist who is available to do Parent Education Workshops, either Private or PTA Sponsored Classes.
Contact her at 425-772-6698.