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10 Tips on Setting House Rules for Kids

Laura Richards
July 10, 2017

Want to provide structure in your family so things run smoothly, but not sure where to start? Rest easy as you learn some tips to set house rules for kids.

You look at the clock: It's a school night and later than you thought. The kids need to get to bed, but the process is like herding cats. What's the best way to accomplish it? Start with setting up some house rules.

Here are 10 tips to get you started:
 

  1. Talk to Your Spouse or Partner About Your Goals
    Before you start to set up house rules for kids, you need to decide what your goals are. What is or isn't working in your home? Is there a behavioral problem you'd like to address? Jot down some notes about what you hope to achieve.
     
  2. Hold a Family Meeting
    Whether you have preschoolers or preteens, having a family meeting gives kids a chance to provide input and feel valued. Ask questions like, "If you could make two house rules, what would they be?" Of course you might get something like, "Eat ice cream every night!" but you may be surprised at the insightful responses you receive.
     
  3. Post Your House Rules
    It's important for kids to see the rules in a prominent place in the home, such as on your fridge. For younger kids, you can draw simple pictures to demonstrate the concept.
     
  4. Promote Teamwork
    A family is a team! Instead of parents versus kids, talk about how you can all work together. Respecting each and every member of the family is the only way this will work.

    Example Rule: Respect People's Things
    Always ask permission first to borrow any item whether it belongs to a parent or a sibling. This helps foster communication and respect for others.
     
  5. Be Clear and Concrete
    Kids thrive on structure. They may protest their daily nap or claim they hate rules, but most kids need and want rules to feel secure. Knowing where the boundaries are is one of the reasons you're setting house rules.

    Example Rule: Do Your Chores!
    Chores teach responsibility at every age. Even your 2-year-old can do simple task like putting all the clean socks into a basket. Chores are to be shared by every member of the household.
     
  6. Adjust for Ages and Stages of Development
    If you've got a range of ages in your family, house rules for kids will vary, too. Reinforce with your kids that each of us has rules that fit our age and ability.

    Example Rule: Parents Determine Bedtime
    Bedtime can be a huge battle for many families, and it's a rule that will need adjusting to accommodate the ages of your kids. You won't be sending your 2-year-old to bed at the same time as your 10-year-old!
     
  7. Set Inside and Outside Rules
    There are different types of house rules. Some apply in the house and some outside. Again, be clear and write out exactly what is expected.

    Example Rule: No Running In the House
    Yes, it's a no-brainer, but it teaches kids to be safe.
     
  8. Practice What You Preach
    You may be setting up rules for your kids, but you need to toe the line, too. Kids watch your every move, so if they sense you aren't on board, they will be less likely to comply. If your children usually spend some time with a caregiver, make sure they are on the same page, as well.

    Example Rule: Put Back What You Take
    If you use the TV remote or a game, you need to put it back. This helps foster respect for things that belong to you and others -- and it applies to everyone in the house!
     
  9. Use Consequences and Praise
    When a child acts up or doesn't follow a rule, consequences need to be age appropriate. When kids do behave well -- and when they follow your house rules -- praise them up and down for it.

    Example Rule: Follow the Rules or Lose an Item or Privilege
    This might involve a taking away favorite toy, video game or privilege like getting to staying up later on Saturday evenings. If kids don't have consequences, the whole process will unravel.
     
  10. Reassess Rules as Necessary
    As you set house rules for kids, consider it a work in progress. As you start living by the rules, you may find that some don't work well or others need to be added. Be willing to adjust!


Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys, including a set of identical twins. She has written for numerous parenting publications and is the president of On Point Communications.

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