Parenting Tips: Rules

Okay, I know that I probably shouldn't be giving out parenting advice since I'm not a parent.
However, I can't take credit for the suggestions below; they are from professors that have earned multiple degrees in child pyschology and have raised children of their own.

i.e. they are legit.

Rules--or "guidelines," as pirates would say--are pretty tricky.

How much is too much?
Where do you draw the line? 
What is the right balance between justice and mercy?

In a study conducted by James Garbarino, (famous child pyschologist and author) he found that it didn't matter what decade, culture, or continent, all teenagers have one thing in common: they push the limits (Raising Children in a Socially Toxic Environment, 1999 ). In all the cultures he studied it did not matter what the rules were, the teenagers would break or push them to the limit, just to test the consequences. This is just part of being a teenager.

In my own life, my parents didn't create a lot of "fluff" (unimportant rules) and now that I look back on it I feel that it helped me a lot. They got a lot of criticism for not having enough rules and for not exerting enough control over their children. So it must be pretty miraculous to those people that none of my parents' children ended up in jail or on a milk carton.

Rules About Rules
Not only are these universal principles supported by child psychologists and family therapists, but my parents used them as well!
  1. Include your children in creating the family rules AND consequences. This ensures that the rules and consequences are fair to everyone, and the kids know exactly what will happen if they break a rule. If a consequence is left a mystery it is a lot more enticing to find out what it is.
  2. Pick and choose your battles: I recently read a blog post about a teenager cell phone contract. I really think this mom is on the right track, but there are so many rules that it makes it way too complicated. The more rules the greater chance you will end up arguing about a broken one. Parenthood is not about avoiding conflict, it's about choosing which arguments matter the most and ignoring the ones that don't. Please don't create tons of unimportant rules, it will only create problems.
  3. When you say "no" mean it, when you mean "no" say it. This relates to #2 in the way that only make rules that you intend to keep. Be consistent.
  4. Use natural consequences as much as possible. For example, my professor's teenage daughter loved to walk on top of their pasture fence. My professor said that she told her daughter that she would get hurt, but her daughter kept doing it. As a mother, she could have exerted her authority and forced her daughter to get off the fence, but she knew that would create conflict and resentment. So she let her figure it out on her own. The daughter fell off the fence and had to get stitches. Needless to say she never walked on the fence again, and she also listened to her mother a lot more often after that. 
  5. Don't use hypocritical punishments. Biting your child as a punishment for biting, spanking as a punishment for hitting their sibling, these punishments don't produce positive results. You are teaching your child that when someone upsets you it is acceptable to hit them because that's what you do when you're angry. So when their sibling takes their toy away what are they going to do? Hit them. That's what you've taught them to do.
  6. Teach your children correct principles and then let them govern themselves. Instead of coercing your children not to bully, teach them about individual worth and the importance of treating other people with love and respect. You are not going to teach kindness by saying "If I hear that you have bullied someone you are grounded from your phone for 2 weeks!"
Remember: be a teacher and a counselor, not a dictator.


  1. I really like this. Thanks for sharing!

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