Rules and Chores Equal Confidence!

Children are the world’s best procrastinators. Ask them to do something, they usually don’t get to it right away. Often you will have to asked several times before the request is met. Are these children being disobedient? Not really, they are just being, well, kids!

As an educator, I have developed successful classroom management through adhering to several rules for myself:

1. Establish rules and keep reminding children: It is unrealistic to Set up rules on day one and then expect students to remember them or be successful following them. I post the rules in my classroom and we revisit them each week as a reminder. We discuss the rewards and consequences also. As the months go on, this actually takes much less time but is just as important if the classroom is to maintain order.

2. Have the children create the rules with you: As a teacher, I ask the students to come up with rules they would like in order to feel safe and able to learn in the classroom. Giving the students ownership of the rules makes it far more likely that they will follow them.

3. Be consistent: I always maintain the same rules and expectations along with the same rewards and consequences for all children. Children will notice if rules can sometimes be broken!

Now let’s look at my own household. I have two boys; much less to manage than my 25 students. There is a different dynamic between parent and child, however. Countless times I have experienced parents asking me how their child can be so well-behaved in school yet so hard to manage at home. I was one such parent back in the early pre-school days. I actually checked to make sure the teacher knew which one was my child!

There are many factors influencing the dichotomy between classroom and home behaviors in children. Firstly, your child sees you as a ‘safety net‘ ready to catch them as they let out all the frustrations of the day. As your child pours his soul out to you, try to remember it is the biggest complement in the world: you are the person they feel safe enough to do this with, they have been able to hold it in all day. Then take a deep breath and tackle the issue as best you can. Homes don’t generally have posters up all over the walls reminding children about rules and expectations. Also, by the time you get your children back from school, you are exhausted and find maintaining consistency hard. Even the best of us have lost our tempers over something minor, or given in to whining because we are just too tired to deal with it. We are human and that is life!

So how can we ensure our children don’t get short-changed when it comes to providing them with fair and consistent rules and expectations? There are many parenting styles and I am not about to tell you all to subscribe to my ideas, merely draw from them or use them as a tool for devising your own plan.

1. Remember you are the parent not a friend: As much as we love our children, we have to maintain a relationship that places ourselves in charge. Our friends are on an equal footing and we certainly wouldn’t dream of insisting on them following a list of rules (apart from the natural social rules). I am not saying a child is not equal to a parent in terms of rights and importance, but a parent has to lead the way and educate the child not ‘hang out‘ with her!

2. Establish rules based on the child’s age: Very young children need rules to keep them safe: keep hands off the stove, keep objects out of your mouth etc. Older children need safety rules but also responsibilities that help to build their self-esteem and sense of being part of the family.

3. Be consistent: Your child knows exactly how to tug on your heart-strings. He will notice any weakness in your resolve to stick to your guns and use it like a master general to defeat his enemy! Do not be fooled by those big baby blues, he is more than able (often subconsciously) to know when he is about to win a battle and how to deliver the final blow.

4. Be clear on what is non-negotiable and allow your child to have input on some rules/responsibilities: Bedtime is a constant in our house. My boys have to be up at six o’clock every morning so we do not allow them to delay bedtime. We have established this rule since they were toddlers and remind them of the reason for it regularly. This helps them accept it and we have very few issues. We are more flexible at the weekend and will negotiate if a special event is happening. By allowing my children to have some input on days we do not actually need to enforce the rule, they are much happier to conform during the week. We did not start this until both boys were older and able to comprehend the need for responsible decision-making: Peanut has baseball on Saturdays and if it is an early game, he has to get up. He choses to go to bed early himself.

5. Post reminders of chores: I have a “to do” list. Why shouldn’t my children get a reminder also? It seems unfair to just expect them to remember things when I can’t. So we have a few strategically placed reminders scattered throughout the house. The chores list is on the fridge and shows the whole families responsibilities for each day for the week. Click here to see our Family Responsibility Chart. Other essential reminders are posted in the hallway: Unpack book-bag and put away, hang up coat, shoes in basket, wash hands. In the bathroom: Take puffer, take vitamins, clean teeth, wash face, etc… Even in the bedroom: dirty clothes in the basket, hand up clean clothes, make bed, tidy toys.

6. Use “do” not “don’t” as much as you can: Children, much like adults, dislike hearing don’t all the time. If we restructure our rules as positive expectations, they may be more happily received (remember, we are talking about children here so no promises!) I like to say, “Put your bag in the basket,” rather than, “don’t leave your bag on the floor.” I am stating my rule but also reminding my sons of a way to keep it.

7. Avoid getting into a debate or argument: I actually found the following video sums up what I mean by this.

I strongly believe that children who have rules, expectations, and chores clearly laid out develop stronger self-esteem and a feeling of confidence. Children will be expected to go out into the world one day and we, as parents, need to equip them with the skills to to that. By standing firm on the need to complete all chores and follow the rules of the household, we are creating the building blocks to independence for our children. They may not like us as we hand them the trash to take out, but they will, I truly believe, be happier, more grounded individuals in the future.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you believe children need more freedom and choices? Do you have other methods for ensuring your children follow household rules?

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