One of the hardest components of parenting might be when you have an older child who is repeatedly breaking or disregarding the rules of your home. If you find yourself in this situation you may want to consider these three reasons why your child might be disregarding or ignoring the rules:
Were the rules made without their input?
A child has much less respect for rules that are mandated or imposed on them. If you want to have rules that are effective for parents and children, both should be involved in the creation. Many teenagers that have rules suddenly enforced or thrust on them wonder why their parents no longer trust them and tend to rebel from the feeling of distrust they feel. If you want to avoid this situation make sure your child is involved in all aspects of creating rules and the associated consequences.
Another reason your teen might be rebelling against your family rules is that they don’t even know they exist. You can’t just impose an unwritten or unspoken rule and expect your child to know and follow it. If you want to have rules in your home that are consistent you should consider not only talking about them with your child but putting them in writing. This allows all members of the family to see and refer to the rules and the specified consequences at any time, especially at times when you are referring to a rule that was broken. If a child breaks a rule, you can point to the written rule you all agreed on and the negotiated consequence. You know exactly how to handle the broken rule and your child should know exactly what consequence to expect for breaking it. This creates a more harmonious relationship with the rules and helps to prevent anger or frustration at rule breaking from taking over.
Consequences aren’t consistent with the rule
When a child has a rule they are expected to follow they should also know exactly what the consequences are for breaking that rule. By having consequences explained at the same time the rule is made, they will understand what happens when they break the rule. If you find that a specific rule is being broken over and over you can re-address the rule and the consequence with your child to make adjustments that will have a better impact.
While it is important to have rules to help establish norms and expectations for your children, the most important thing to remember is that, with or without rules, establishing an open line of communication and trust will help you have a better relationship and help your child become more responsible.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.