“If you develop rules, never have more than ten.” (Donald Rumsfeld)
I’ve been asked to share my house rules. By request, here they are.
1. Family first. This means family first, friends second and family takes priority. We love each other and will seek to spend time with each other to make happy memories and strengthen our bonds for the future.
2. Participate in family meals, unless at work, school or church activity, because studies show families that eat regular meals together have more successful children. Please keep all food and drink, except water, confined to the kitchen area.
3. Be respectful of one another, communicate without yelling or profanity, strive to be cheerful, kind and pleasant. No slamming of doors, borrowing without asking, stealing–and please clean up after yourself (leave no trace!) Remove shoes upon entering our home.
4. Honor curfew because “after midnight you’re on the devil’s time.” (That’s what my parents always told me, and my grandparents taught them.) No sleepovers, instead you may participate in “late nights.”
5. Attend church on Sunday, mid-week church activities, participate in church recognition programs.
6. Music, movies and video games are to be family appropriate. No “R” ratings. No internet use without a “buddy” when parents aren’t home.
7. No alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or their usage in the home or out of the home. Family members will submit to drug testing at the parents’ discretion.
8. Practice the life skills that ensure self-reliance: 1. emotional health (family members will go to counseling at the parents’ discretion); 2. financial health (don’t go into debt, eat at home as much as possible, pay 10% tithing, children save 50% of their earnings for college, parents will provide opportunities to develop talents as financially able, no allowance given–everyone is required to help with tasks around the house as it takes every family member to keep our family functioning and our home running smoothly); 3. physical health (eat at home as much as possible–not only is it cheaper, it’s healthier, go to bed at the appropriate time for your age established by parents, stay active); 4. get an education (your job is to focus on your education and learn all you can and do what you need to do to earn good grades); 5. work (everyone of age to work will have a job).
Clearly, “There are some good rules and there are some lousy rules.” (Harold Pinter)
But that’s life at our house.
And here’s the philosophy behind the rules:
Parenting is no popularity contest. As a parent, it’s my job to do everything I can to help my children be successful living our family rules which in turn will prepare them to be successful adults and enjoy happy and successful lives.
My efforts are based on my belief that basic needs (love, food and shelter) are a child’s right and I’m happy to provide them. But I believe everything else is a privilege and must be earned as children prove themselves through their obedience and performance (i.e.. their obedience to our family rules, academic performance, a good attitude, self-control, good behavior and good choices that show they are trustworthy, successful at enjoying their current level of freedom and privileges and are ready to attempt to be successful at the next level.)
Wrong choices, disobedience and setbacks based on behavior and poor choices result in consequences. I hate letting children experience consequences! As a person, I think it’s miserable to have to refrain from helping my children out of their troubles and as a parent, it’s painful to watch, but because I love them I have to allow them to learn from their mistakes. I think it’s the only way to help them learn to be successful. (And I’d much rather have them “fail” while they’re young, than continue to fail as adults because they didn’t learn what they needed to. I’d much rather have them get an “F” in elementary school for not doing their work, than have them lose a job as an adult because they weren’t doing their work.)
My parenting is somewhat based on love and logic. (My thanks to Jim Fay and Foster Kline, proponents of “Love and Logic.”) There are rules and expectations and there are consequences, consequences that will bring happiness and privileges when children make the right choices and other consequences should they choose disobedience.
My children have some input as to their consequences. For example, if they don’t clean their room possible consequences (some brainstormed/chosen by me, some chosen by them) include: temporarily losing their bedroom door until the room is tidy again, me coming in with a trash bag and collecting all of the mess into the sack and then they have to earn things back item by item by doing small extra jobs for me, me helping them clean their room and in return working extra time for me for the same amount of time I spent helping them do their job, or being “grounded” to their room until the work is done. I try to have the consequence connect to the choice. The key is to provide consequences both of us can live with and to providing more than one option/consequence so they have a choice. I also always try to have one of the consequences be a ridiculous option that makes them laugh, if I can.
And because I think there is far too little of people taking credit for their choices in life (it seems like everyone always wants to blame someone else), I’ve always made it a priority to teach personal responsibility as well. I want my kids to own their mistakes and not seek to blame others for their misfortune. When my oldest was little and experienced a time out he began to accuse, “YOU are doing this to me! YOU are making me have a time out!” so I quickly learned to teach him the role he played in it. I’ve even been known to ask them, “Who brought this upon you? Who actually is doing this to you?” just so they realize it was their choice that landed them their consequence.
And the whole “it’s not fair” thing doesn’t fly at our house, and never has. When my older children were little and shared that with me, I was quick to agree: “You’re so right! Life isn’t fair! We already know that, don’t we? If life were fair, I’d have a dad!” (I’m such a terrible mother to dash that childhood dream that life is fair. Sadly, that’s one thing my children have known at an early age although I had to laugh one day when a young child in my home uttered that and another young child, not much older, agreed, “Yes, life isn’t fair! If it were, mom would still have her dad.” I guess I taught that one a little too well, huh?)
But the great thing about all this? It’s all up to my children! I show them the way and help establish expectations and consequences with them, but they get to choose the type of life they live; they get to choose to be successful or not— and they quickly see that it’s much more pleasant to buckle down, get their work done, meet their responsibilities and enjoy freedom and privileges instead of choosing painful consequences and loss of privileges that result in childhood misery and woe! (I know, I know, my children aren’t going to have any stories of having to walk to school through two miles of snow but they WILL have stories about having me as their mother, I’m sure! And if those don’t suffice in showing they were sufficiently traumatized by the misfortune of their life in the parenting department, they can always play the losing-everything-to-a-Ponzi-scheme card! Lol. Just kidding. Hopefully they will always seek to be forward looking and choose to see how they’ve been blessed by the hard stuff to become even better than they would otherwise have been rather than dwell on any misery that came their way.)
But there you have it: what I do and why I do it. Aren’t you glad you don’t have to live at my house?
Oh. I should add that I try to do all of the above with humor, lots of laughter and hugs and love, without yelling (I am NOT a fan of losing control to the point of yelling or getting physical in a negative way) as well as dancing with my children whenever possible!
“Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.” (Angela Monet)