Do you have Family Rules?
I was chatting today with a great guy who gets up at 4.00am each school day to get his children’s
lunch boxes ready, before leaving himself at 5.30 to go to work.
He and his wife have agreed on the rules of their house, that their children will not be allowed to watch tv or have any access to phones and ipads and games during the school week, from Sunday till Thursday here in UAE. So he was telling me how delighted his children are on Thursday afternoon, when the technology embargo is lifted, and they can play their games or catch up with their friends.
I asked him if it is difficult for them to keep these rules in place. He told me, ‘My wife is stricter than me, I sometimes smile when I tell my children to do things, so they think I am not serious, but they always do what their Mum says. But we back each other up: her rules are my rules. Even if I want to put the tv on, I keep to the family rules. And it is not hard, because I need to sleep when I get up so early.’
Children are very quick to understand how to manoeuvre their parents to their best advantage as well. Some children are more clever at this than others.
They know when to ask for permission, say, to go out with their friends, or to be able to play a game. When it is refused by one parent, they go to the other parent and get permission.
This is not only possible but likely to happen when parents are not completely together and on board with the rules of their home – and when they do not lead by their own example.
This week for me has been full of talking with parents: a number of them, anxious parents worrying about their child’s problems and how to help them, and a lot of the problems are ones that have come from how the child is managed at home.
One parent was concerned at how her child is doing wonderfully at school, but is naughty at home. She says ‘I have to tell her to do things 5 or 6 times, and still she doesn’t do it if she doesn’t want to!’ – a dilemma many of us Mothers have faced. We talked through how important it is to follow through what you have said with children, saying it once only and the child facing the consequence if not obeyed.
Our very wise Head of SEND (Special Educational Needs Department) shared how she had this problem and resolved it: she called her son for dinner, and he did not come, so after ten minutes she put the food away. He always came when called after that!
And how important it is for us as Mums to be confident and authoritative in what we tell/ask our children to do!
We Mums tie our own hands behind our backs if we let our children think that the only boss in the house is Dad, by saying: ‘If you don’t behave I will tell your Baba!’
Dad and Mum are equal ‘bosses’ for the children – and Mum often needs to be the main one, spending the most time with her children, so it is vital that she lets her children know that her authority is final.
Everyone has a set of ‘rules’ by which we live our lives, many of them quite unconscious, and we would find it hard to even define that we have them – but they are there, governing our reactions to every situation. As couples, these may well be ones that are very different for each partner.
Having children definitely challenges us in every way. We cannot assume that, by being parents, we automatically gain a unified set of ‘rules’ that smoothly allow for well disciplined happy home-life for all.
Idea for this week
Make some time together with your partner, and write down, separately, the ‘rules’ you have for your children with regard to what you allow them to do.
The following are areas for which you can write your ‘rules’, but you may think of others or many more:
Tidying clothes / toys
Helping out around home
Politeness and courtesy
Pocket money - if given, how much, when, how much autonomy to be given to the child and at what age.
Understanding costs of shopping and expenses in the home
Awareness of saving and of environmental resources – recycling, charity giving, care with food, water and electricity.
Discipline of time use – early morning routine, bedtime routine.
Comparative use of time on relaxing and studying / chores
What is allowable activity in relaxation time
When you have each written your ideas for these, spend some time sharing with your partner, and comparing, - you may well be surprised how different your ideas are, and you did not realise until you spelled it out like this.
Then - agree on what you will adopt as a family. It will help to have this as a record between you. Your ‘Charter’ for your family life!