by Noelle Roe, LCMFT, RPT
January 14, 2015
I often talk with the families I work with about “family rules.” The concept of family rules is as simple as it sounds: rules that everyone in the family is expected to follow. This is counter to conventional parenting which sets up rules that only the children are supposed to follow. These are rules that parents themselves often do not follow. So let’s stop and think about this for a second. The people that your children look to as a role model and guide (yes, I am talking about you), do not abide by the rules. Yet the smallest, least experienced, least capable people in the house are expected to follow them. Difficult things such as do not hit, talk respectfully to adults, stay at the table until your food is gone, use your manners etc. What would it be like if there were rules that everyone in the family was expected to follow? The three that I often recommend, and the three that my own families abides by, are: respectful voice, listening ears, and nice touches.
I know they sound simple, and that’s the point. They are three simple, easy to remember rules that are always applicable and are followed by everyone in the family. This means that my husband and I follow the rules as well. By following the rules, we model how to follow them to our kids. I know you are thinking these sound like rules that should be posted on the wall of a Kindergarten classroom, but stop for a moment and think about how your family could be different if everyone strived to follow these rules (or ones similar to them).
What would it be like, if everyone in your house strove to speak respectfully to each other, listen to each other, and refrained from aggressive behavior? I find that family rules also keep me humble. When I am expected to follow the same rules as my children, I remember that sometimes they are hard even for an adult. I am not perfect, and there have been times that in by busyness I have failed to listen. There have been times in my frustration that I have yelled. But I recognize those shortcomings, apologize for them, and strive to do better. My shortcomings help me to remember that for tiny, developing people there will most certainly be times that they struggle. It is in these times that it is my job to model for them how to learn from your mistakes and to continue growing in your ability to engage with others respectfully.
Download your helpful visual rules here.