Setting Rules: What You Need to Know
● By Hood Magazine
By Amber Bruns, MS, BCBA, South West/West Central Service Cooperative
Rules play an important role in everyday life. All of us operate under some set of rules on a daily basis. Sometimes, children need a little bit more support and encouragement to understand and follow basic rules and expectations. Hopefully, with a little bit more knowledge, skill and some motivation, the right set of rules can help maintain order and peace within your household.
There are some specific facets of rules that we have to explore. First, does your child know what the rules are? Are the rules clearly defined? Is it stated in a way that tells them what to do instead of what not to do? Do they know what the rules mean? Example: State, “Turn tablet, tv, and phone off at 6pm” instead of “No electronics after supper”.
Secondly, do your kids have the ability to do what the rules state? The rules can’t be too hard or your child cannot achieve success. Example: Asking a 3 year old to sit still at the dinner table for 30 minutes may be too difficult for most children that age. It may be better to state, “While at the dinner table, we sit in our chair and use a quiet voice at the table.”
Most importantly, is it clear what happens when they follow the rules and what happens when they don’t follow the rules? Is the motivation significant enough that they will want to follow the rule? This doesn't necessarily mean that a child has to earn money or a prize for following the rule, in some households this may be the strategy that works best. In other households a healthy dose of praise and recognition are given for following the rules. There has to be a plan to recognize your kids when they are doing well and following the rules and avoid only nagging, negative comments and reactions when they don’t follow the rules.
On the flip side, are the consequences for breaking the rules followed consistently by everyone? If the children learn that only mom, enforces the rules or that only one child in the home has to follow the rules, the rules and structure begin to lose their integrity and the structure of the rules will disintegrate and lose their effectiveness.
Keeping a few simple strategies in mind when designing rules for your children can help increase their independence and provide an effective structure for your household.