Rules are the visible foundation upon which parenting is built. They represent your parenting style and encourage communication between you and your child.
The purpose of rules is to allow you and your child to identify acceptable behaviors and teach the limits of behaviors. The focus of rules is educational and based on consequences rather than punishment. They teach your child how to behave in different environments and serve as a reminder that you are the most important model for your child. The final purpose of rules is to encourage children to teach other children by their own words and actions.
The benefits of rules include parent-child communication, self-discipline and the support of the ability to choose. Clear, concise and consistent rules allow safety and security issues to be addressed while at the same time showing your child that you care. By following rules children learn the importance of safety, security and acceptance.
Parents are best able to establish successful rules when children are involved and engaged in the rule setting process. By involving your child in choosing rules and consequences you support and encourage two way communications. Cooperation improves and supports compliance as well as provides opportunities for genuine praise to be given to your child. In addition, remember to build incentives and rewards into the rules you establish.
Always make sure rules are clear, concise and written down. They must be posted in a visible location that is easily seen by you and your child. Set a positive tone for rules. Include “To Do” statements rather than “Not to Do” statements and decide at the time the rule is established what the logical and natural consequences will be if a rule is not followed. Natural consequences are consequences that are the direct result of your child’s behavior and logical consequences are consequences that are directly linked to your child’s behavior.
Common tips for parents concerning rules include making sure you remain attentive and responsive to your child while at the same time being attuned and sensitive to your child’s needs and feelings. Praise is important. It increases your child’s compliance and must be genuine. Never be surprised when your child breaks a rule. Expect rule breaking since it is often a way children seek attention. Recognize when a rule is broken but avoid “nit picking.” By being consistent, firm, pleasant and leaving anger and discouragement behind you will model acceptable behavior for your child and increase your child’s compliance.
Lastly, remember to be a parent and not a friend when setting rules. Don’t be afraid of being a “bad guy.” Permissive parents are not successful in the long term and do not prepare a child for future decision-making and problem-solving. They do not teach children that authority must be honored and respected. By accepting your parental responsibility as an authoritative parent you teach your child the value of cooperation and respect and help prepare your child to find good solutions to present and future problems.