Put Family Rules in Black & White

RulesPost photoSpelling out your family’s principles now can help later.

Are your kids a few years away from owning a smartphone and stepping into social media? If so, now is the perfect time to get crystal clear about your family values reflected in the house rules you set.

In many ways the online world still seems like the wild west as far as what is appropriate behavior and what isn’t. The unknowns and ever-evolving platforms fuel perplexity and plenty of anxiety for nervous parents.

Online life has become an extension of our offline life, underscoring the need to teach kids appropriate filters, boundaries and conscientious behavior.

Recently, my family gathered to outline our household rules. The decision to put these rules into writing was mostly driven by an uptick in sibling conflict, disrespectful attitudes, poor choices and irresponsible behavior–issues that I assume many families with elementary school age children deal with.

We went around the table and we each took a turn adding what we thought should be a family rule and the consequences for breaking those rules. With our kids dialed into the process and understanding what our family felt was important to creating a happier home life, we established a new tone about how we relate to each other.

Later as I sat down to compose our household rules, I couldn’t help thinking about how these same rules will translate in the online environment for my kids in coming years.

For example:

  • Use respectful language
  • Engage in courteous, kind behavior
  • Ask for permission
  • Aim for compromise
  • Apologize if you make a mistake

These rules for living seem so basic and simple.

But as we all know, life doesn’t lend itself to simplicity. Life is messy and complicated. New situations present learning curves. Sometimes we make a wrong turn. Sometimes we break or push rules out of curiosity. Kids do this all of the time. Other times it isn’t until we swerve off the cliff of not-so-great choices that we decide to rest our weary heads on the values and principles that have never steered us wrong in the past.

For my family, seeing our rules in black and white posted on our refrigerator reaffirmed the values we hold dear in a non-nebulous way that I hope will guide their choices and behavior as they eventually begin interacting with others online.

Naturally my kids test these rules every day and remind each other “Hey, you just broke a rule – you can’t call me that name.” Sometimes to change a pattern, we just need to be more aware of it. And I believe this exercise is helping.

If you would like to try this with your own family, ask these questions:

  • What household rules are a reflection of my family’s values?
  • How will we hold each other accountable?
  • What are the consequences for breaking a rule?
  • What are the incentives that will positively reinforce our household guidelines?



Coming Tuesday, September 16!

I am pleased to announce the launch of my next ebook Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital Age. Head over here to get more details and read first reader reviews!

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