|Our 3' snowman is almost covered with snow.|
Yesterday, I got mad. Not “clean your room” mad, but “this is THE LAST STRAW” mad. It was my second day in a row shoveling snow (my third time in two days, after Mother Nature dumped 14.5 inches on us Thursday) and my fourth time shoveling this past week. Because my husband HAD to work from home, I had hoped that the children, especially the Teen would have automatically pitched in. They had not. The boy was consumed his video games. It was a pattern that I had seen increasing over the last few months and I wasn't happy about it. Our lives seemed to revolve around whether he was in the midst of a game, which lasts about 40 minutes, or about to go into a game. Yesterday, I had asked him to help me right after breakfast because it was garbage pick-up day and we needed to dig out for early pick-up. “I'll be right out, Mom,” he'd said. Thirty minutes later, I was still outside, alone and in the cold. I had had it.
The ensuing row was epic. There was a lot of yelling (me), a lot of crying (him), and even more yelling (him). Both kids finally came outside; the Boy admitted that I shouldn't have had to do it alone, but he said he had wanted me to wait "until after his game had finished." Yeah, unacceptable. I called a family meeting for that night so we could draft a revised list of Family Rules.
The concept of Family Rules had been introduced to me some years ago by a psychologist at a parenting seminar I'd gone to. In it, the doc had said that if you have an agreed-upon list of rules with set consequences, it makes it easier for kids to adhere to because:
- The rules get printed in black and white and posted on the
refrigerator and in several rooms, therefore, they serve as a
constant reminder of how we choose to live.
- There are set repercussions to breaking them which all can
- They pretty much pertain to everyone, even adults, so the
kids know that they're fair.
- The kids are asked to sign off on them, so there's no doubt
that everyone agreed to them.
- It makes parenting easier, since behavioral parameters and
repercussions have been set by the unit as a whole (meaning, I don't
have to come up with them on the fly).
We convened the Family Meeting when my husband got home. My husband is very good at presiding over these meetings, not because he's “the Head of the House,” but because he's more balanced and removed from the day-to-day rhythm of the house than I am. To prevent interrupting, he grabbed the ketchup bottle and explained, “Whoever holds the ketchup, has the floor and is not to be interrupted.” The kids, of course, immediately skirmished for the condiment. Dad stepped in and handed the bottle to me. I explained my position and thus began a lengthy, heated discussion, mostly with the Teen. Diva was amused because she wasn't in trouble, but had some salient points, and in the end, we all saw something I don't think we'd seen before: that even the kids were aware that we just were not communicating well as a family and they missed it as much as Mom and Dad did! We all agreed that we needed some new guidelines.
Here are our parameters for drafting Family Rules:
- There should be a few as possible. Too many are hard to
remember and are less likely to be followed.
- They should be framed in a positive light. If they're
negative, then you have members just looking for infractions; that's
not a good way to live. If we draft them with the true purpose –
to enhance communication and reinforce the values of the family –
they become an asset, rather than a liability, to the unit.
- Everyone must understand them, even the youngest member.
- Everyone is accountable. Consequences of breaking them
pertain to all family members.
- A certain amount of flexibility should be expected.
Circumstances change and the rules should be flexible enough to “go
with the flow,” yet rigid enough to insure structure.
- Everyone must sign off on them.
- They will be revised periodically to meet the needs of the
- No one leaves the table until the set is complete.
- We love and support one another. If someone asks for help,
you help them within a mutually-agreed upon period of time. (This
means the kids don't have to jump when I ask for help, but they will
help within a reasonable amount of time. So when Junior asks me for
40 minutes to finish his video game, I can say “no” and he needs
- We value what the other person says and will listen to each
other without interrupting (a challenge for the 8-year old).
- We need to connect with each other, therefore, meals will be eaten at
the table (not in front of the TV or computer – a nod to me as
well as the kids).
- To enhance sleep, no video after 9:30pm. A 10 minute grace
period may or may not be offered (so the Boy can finish a game) and
anything over that 10 minutes will be deducted from the following
night's video time.
- To also enhance a peaceful bedtime, all chores must be done
before 9:30pm (this means the Teen is will not rushing to do them before
- Reading is a wonderful thing, so everyone will spend at least
20 minutes of their time at home reading.
- Our time together is precious, so the children will play or
read together for at least 10 minutes a day; if it's reading, that
10 minutes contributes to the aforementioned 20 minutes of daily
- The cat NEEDS to be played with, so each child will play with
her for at least 5 minutes each day (otherwise she goes nuts at night).
*Weekend video rules may nor may not be extended at the discretion of the parents.
If you think drafting family rules might help your family, here are some resources to look at:
– This article from Family Education makes a GREAT point: “Family
rules are your family values in action.” Displaying them, in
print form, makes them tangible and real.
– This piece provides some nice guidelines on how to conduct a
family meeting, although it's a little on the male chauvinist side.
– The Raising Children Network provides details and explains why
having family rules really helps children.
– Don't let the word “discipline” scare you in this URL. This
article is a great starting-point to get you thinking about what the
rules of the family could be.
– A wonderful site with tons of articles on parenting and
rule-setting. I bookmarked this page and signed up for their
– This article talks, logically, about the importance of setting
family rules. It has more of a corporate feel to it and would be
really useful if someone in the family is balking at the concept of
having family rules.
I woke up this morning knowing there would be less yelling due to our new structure and I was right. When Junior balked at running some errands with us, we invoked Rule #1 and he immediately complied. A few hours ago, he went to a friend's house with the understanding that, per the Rules, he must be back in plenty of time to do today's chores.
The Rules do not eliminate all yelling, but past experience has shown me that it does cut down on everyone's frustration and agitation significantly because we all know what's expected of us. If you choose to draft Family Rules, please check back in here and let me know if and how they worked for you.
Thanks for reading! I'd love to meet back with you here in day or two when I'll provide some suggestions on what to do with leftover Valentine's Day candy. It'll be SWEET!
|Our backyard with more than 14.5" of snow.|