Keeping the family rules

Nicola Baldwin, Parent Support Worker


So you started the new year full of resolve for how family life would be transformed. Behaviour would be improved, bedrooms would be tidied daily, screen time curbed, mealtimes would be harmonious and everyone would play their part with the household chores. But despite all your best efforts, colour-coded wall planners and reward charts, everyone already seems to be falling back into old habits, the children have forgotten most of the rules and there are no consequences when they break them.


Family Meeting


Begin by having a family meeting to discuss the rules. The goal is to agree around five rules that are important for all family members. It is interesting to see what rules and consequences children suggest – they can be harder on themselves than we think!

Writing the rules as a family gives everyone a voice but ultimately the parents should be in charge and have the final say. So sense check each rule to ensure it is logical and fair.


TOP TIP: It is good to be prepared before the meeting and have some rules in your mind – talk this through with your partner or someone who helps you with your children regularly. A united approach stops children playing one parent off against the other.



Name the Rules


Good rules are specific and easy to understand. Giving each rule a name makes it much easier to prompt or remind each other rather than fall into the trap of lecturing. Examples of rules are:

  • Gentleness rule: No hitting
  • Indoor voice rule: No shouting
  • Screen time rule: Screen time limit 2 hours
  • Bedtime rule: Bedtime is at 8pm
  • Seatbelt rule: Seatbelts must always be worn in the car
  • Mobile phone rule: Keep your phone with you on loud and fully charged when you go out
  • Property rule: Ask before you use something belonging to others
  • Privacy rule: Knock before you enter a bedroom




It is important to establish consequences for breaking the rules. The consequences should be age appropriate, short – and most importantly something you can live with! An example might be “if you break the phone rule, it will be taken away for 24 hours.”

Now you have laid the groundwork, display the rules where everyone can see them and you are ready to go! Remember: they are familyrules that apply to everyone. Adults break the rules too sometimes and it is important they own up and take responsibility for their behavior, rather than make excuses, as children will model this behaviour.


Next Steps:


  • Praise your child for following a family rule
  • When the rule is broken remain calm, state the rule and the consequence.
  • Follow through with the consequence immediately
  • Praise your child for the next respectful behaviour


TOP TIP: Review the rules every so often as some rules may not be necessary once they become habits (imagine that!)


Good luck!

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