Lay down the law and have your kids help set the rules

Clear and concise rules are an important part of a happy, harmonious family. Letting your children help set the rules makes them more likely to obey.

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  • You may think that your kids know what you expect from them. I mean, “Don't hit your sister” is common sense, right? Then, you look around the house on a Saturday afternoon to see that chores haven't been done, your son is going on his fourth hour of playing video games and your two youngest are fighting again. You realize it may be time for a little clarification.

  • Contrary to popular belief, children love rules. When kids push boundaries, it is because they are trying to figure out where the line is. It's not that they want to cross that line, they want to be able to explore what is possible within those boundaries.

  • Children need rules in their lives. It helps them feel safe and secure and it helps them succeed when they know what is expected of them. Yet, you don't want to come across as a tyrant with your demands. So, what should you do?

  • It's time to hold a family meeting. By getting your kids involved, they will feel that your family rules are fair and be more likely to obey. Here are some ideas for how to get started.

  • Come prepared

  • Bring a notebook, pen, poster board and colored markers.

  • Start with a prayer

  • Inviting God to direct your family meeting will make sure you maintain a nice, upbeat tone throughout that time.

  • Look at the big picture

  • Rules make more sense to everyone when they have a clear purpose. Ask the question, “What do we want our family to be like?” In your notebook, write down the answers. Do you want your family to be kind? Loving? Do you want to emphasize hard work or education? Decide what is important to you as a family. Craft a statement that reflects the family you want to become.

  • Ask for suggestions

  • Now is the time to start writing down rules. Ask your family what kind of rules you need to become the kind of family you want to be. Make sure everyone is able to voice his opinion. You probably already know some behaviors that need to be addressed. You can guide your family and suggest rules they might have forgotten.

  • Decide on consequences

  • Keeping in mind your family goals, choose consequences that help you encourage the behaviors you want to see. Be creative and don't settle for just, “Time out,” or, “You're grounded.” Visit this FamilyShare.com article for creative consequence ideas. Make sure everyone agrees with the new plan.

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  • Choose rewards

  • Your ultimate reward is a happier, more harmonious home — but you also want to reward your family for their progress. Choose rewards that are family-oriented. You might want to suggest a family movie night if everyone keeps up with their chores for the week. Or you could go out to dinner at a restaurant if they've been kind to each other all month. Consider your family's interests and choose activities that will foster family love and unity.

  • Create a poster

  • At the top of the poster board, write out your family statement. Below that, write out the rules and consequences you have decided on together. Let your children illustrate and decorate the poster to help make it their own.

  • Display your poster

  • Find somewhere prominent in your home where you can display your poster. Having it visible will remind all the members of your family not only of the rules, but of the kind of family you are trying to become.

  • End with a prayer

  • Voice your commitment to God to become the kind of family he would like you to be. Ask him for his help as you work together to obtain that goal.

  • Congratulations! You now have your family rules in place, and everyone is on board with you. Be consistent, give it time and enjoy the results.

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Shelli Howells is a creative fiction writer, and a mother of six.

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