How to Lay Down the Law: Tips for Making House Rules

Family laws Sticking To It

While I'm a list-maker, I tend to make too many lists, revise lists and sometimes scrap the whole list. I'm not at all a person who sticks to a routine or schedule. Instead, I flit and float from this to that. These are more reasons {in addition to the reasons in yesterday's post} why I have been hesitant about making House Laws for our family; I'm worried that I won't think to enforce them and I, myself, won't follow them.

But I may have discovered the secret for keeping myself on track. Darling 1 is sure to point out when any of the rest of the family is doing anything that is against a "rule" or something we have warned against or talked about as being naughty, dangerous or wasteful, etc.

My Reminder

Over the last few months we have talked a lot about the hazards of distracted driving as a family. We have made the decision to not use our phones at all while driving. Darling 1 has been quick to issue reminders not to answer the phone while driving; advise us to pull over to use the phone; and warn about the dangers of texting while driving. He is correct; it's what we have taught him; and we follow these rules we have set.

Going a step further, a few weekends ago, Darling 1 and I were running errands and realized we needed to grab a quick bite of lunch. We went through a drive through and picked up our food. As I was exiting the drive through lane, Darling 1 said, "Mom, isn't eating while driving distracted driving too?" My reply, "Yep, it sure is." So, I parked and we ate in the car.

I certainly don't want to drive distracted, and as long as Darling 1 is there to keep me on the straight and narrow, it won't be hard to stick to my guns on this one. So, the trick is to get the kids involved in creating and writing the house rules and helping the whole family stick to them.


Here are some tips for making your house rules:

  1. Make it Simple. The rules must be simple enough for the youngest member of the family to understand and follow. Additionally, there's a higher chance all family members will follow easy to remember rules.
  2. Write it Down. Make a list in pen, crayon, cross-stitch, permanent marker or printed in ink, but make sure it's in semi-permanent form and posted where all family members can see it.
  3. Involve the Kids. Be sure to listen to the kids' suggestions and explanations regarding rules and consequences. If they have a stake in making the family plan, they will be more likely to follow the rules.
  4. Keep it Short. Three to five rules are plenty for a household. The rules need to be short enough for even a young tot to remember the whole list.
  5. Explain the Rules. Just because a rule makes sense to a parent doesn't mean the 3 year-old or 6 six year-old or even 13 year-old understands a rule or its repercussions. Be sure that each rule is discussed and any questions answered before it becomes a family law.
  6. Talk About the Rules Often. Once you have settled on a few house rules and posted them for all to see, you need to be sure to talk about them, remind potential offenders about following the laws and refer to them often. This will ensure the rules are cemented in the little ones' and big ones' thoughts; just as all the distracted driving facts are in Darling 1's brain.
  7. Consistently Enforce the Rules. This is easier to do if you have only a few family laws to keep track of and the list has been committed by memory to all beholden to it. I have found that the hardest part of discipline is consistency, but practice makes perfect.
  8. Be Flexible About Changing a Rule. As I have written about in the past, sometimes good laws have unintended consequences or don't serve a purpose any longer or need to be tweaked. And that is alright. It's better to change a family rule to make it work for the household, rather than to be stuck with a rule on the list that simply doesn't work.
  9. Be Prepared to Follow the Rules. These house laws are meant to be followed by all family members, not just the kiddos. This means that you, the parent, must also be willing to abide by the edicts set out in semi-permanent form, visibly posted and enforced in your home. And don't be surprised when and if your child catches you breaking a rule and tries to correct your actions; it will happen.  

The Scoop

With imagination, patience and persistence, a family can be disciplined and consistent in the actions and reactions to recurring disruptive situations in the household. Two readers shared these house rules: 1. Take care of ourselves (brushing teeth, eating healthy foods, etc.) 2. Take care of others (be nice, share, etc.) 3. Take care of our things (clean up, use toys nicely, etc.). These are uncomplicated, easy to understand and remember. It really can be this simple, if that fits your family's needs.

Here are two more resources for house rules: Our House Rules and 18 Practical Tips for Living the Golden Rule. Tomorrow I will share some thoughts from our family's brainstorming session on our house laws. Over and out....


You might also like:

Striking a Balance: Tips for Effective Decision Making

TheNanny Files: Finding the “Right Fit” for Your Family

Hello,My Name is________: Does Your Name Affect Your Life?


In order to comment on, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.