My pre-teen daughter asked to have a new friend stay overnight and even though I didn’t know the girl or the parents I said, “Sure, the more the merrier.”
Chelsey’s friend Sharon was very bright; her parents were progressive to say the least. She was funny and very clever; she seemed much more mature in thought than Chelsey even though they were about the same age. They were having fun and that was important.
Chelsey and her sister Katie pulled out after-school snacks and discussed what to do afterward with Sharon. Katie had homework so she took her backpack off to her room. Sharon and Chelsey chose to play Scrabble now and do homework later on.
Sharon saw the “House Rules” I had posted on the refrigerator and began reading while Chelsey set up the Scrabble game and grabbed a tablet to keep score. I immediately became uncomfortable as I did not want to embarrass Chelsey. Sharon was reading every single rule and the more she read, the worse I felt.
“This House Rules is great!” remarked Sharon.
“Oh yea…?” I asked, “What exactly do you like?”
“I like that the rules are all written down and sticking out here on the refrigerator; my parents expect us to remember everything.”
“You’re kidding, you really like it?” I asked.
Sharon looked at me and said sincerely, “This would be a big help at home, I’m going to ask Mom and Dad to write our rules down. That way I could look them over so I don’t forget.”
“I like that you approve, Sharon.” I smiled and looked at Chelsey who was smiling back.
Sharon snickered, “The way my Mom and Dad do it you would think they are making rules up as they go along.”
I liked Sharon— and I learned from her that writing all those rules down was a good idea even though it may make me look like an ogre. The list of rules was long and took time to compile but it was worth it. Simply reading down the list, my children – and their friends – knew what was not allowed or probably off limits. The funny thing I learned is that parents make a huge mistake by assuming kids know more— when they often do not.
What was on my long list of house rules?
Here is an abbreviated list similar to the one Sharon read that day:
• No swearing or cursing.
• No hitting.
• No spitting.
• No kicking.
• No scratching.
• No pulling hair.
• No making fun of anybody.
• No screaming.
• No running indoors.
• No throwing things indoors.
• No name-calling.
• No stealing.
• No lying.
• No smoking.
• No illegal drugs.
• No tattling.
• Do not answer the door or phone if I am not home.
• Put away toys when finished.
• Do not waste water.
• Do not waste food.
• Ask permission before committing to a sleepover, party, etc.
My original list was a page long and touched on simple things we would expect children to know but, unless they were told (and reminded occasionally), they might not.
Parents can create a list and add any rule they want according to their beliefs and values. One parent had a rule about not watching any TV shows or movies with a rating of PG (Parental Guidance) or higher unless a parent was present. Print a copy out and post it on your refrigerator or other central location. Posting a copy in children’s bedrooms is also acceptable. It is helpful to discuss the rules with children and ask their input in a family meeting. One mother even went even further to also list consequences for breaking a rule. Review the rules periodically to add new rules as children get older and delete old rules like “no spitting.”
Does your family have a list of family rules? I would love to hear from you so drop me a line!