August is back to school month..
Good rules equal good parenting.
In our research, young people have said time and time again how much they needed family structure and clear guidelines.
Parental Guidance Should Start Young
The guidance you give your child should be age appropriate. A toddler must learn to put his toys away in the toy box before dinner or bedtime. Set boundaries early and “the terrible twos”— and indeed the rest of life—will be easier in a Family Rules home. The sooner we start letting children know, in a loving, caring way, just exactly what we expect of them and where their positions are in the hierarchy of the family, the happier, more successful, and more self-confident they will become.
So, when an eighteen-month-old child doesn’t want to put her toys away, or the two-year-old begins with the classic “No” of the terrible two’s, we must be clear. State the rules, such as “We take out only two toys at a time and put one back before we take out another,” and be prepared to repeat them for the toddler. You need not waste precious time negotiating with him or her. If the toys are on the floor, ask the toddler to put them in the toy box so you can get ready for dinner. If the answer is “No,” the simplest approach is to say firmly, “Toys go in the toy box. . . now.” If there is still no movement, say, “Mommy/Daddy will help,” and take their two little hands, wrap them around the toy to be put away, move with the child to the toy box and together drop the toy in the box. Often the child will then say, “I do it myself.” If not, keep going and then, when the toys are picked up, you praise the child and say, “What a good job you did! Tomorrow I know you will do it all by yourself.”
Rules and boundaries—what is a “yes” and what is a “no”— hold the child in a positive emotional embrace. Did you know that rules and such allegedly outmoded things as curfews give kids a sense of safety and security? Kids also like to test the rules. It’s natural to test. But it’s better to know what the rules are before you try to break them.
It was summertime when fourteen-year-old Suzie and her family started seeing me for counseling. I was seeing her, her father, stepmother, and mother. The father was taking residential custody at the mother’s request. As far as her mother was concerned, the child was unmanageable. Still, she had the talent and good fortune to be admitted to the New York City Performing Arts High School that September. Everybody wanted her to do well. The problem was that she had Attention Deficit Disorder and often forgot things.
Sara, Suzie’s stepmother, was having nightmares and “daymares” about the child coming to live with them. According to Sara, Suzie was a drag on the household and would drive her and her husband apart because they always argued about discipline. Suzie never remembered anything, and her dad was always making excuses for her.
After a few sessions, we began to draw up the Family Rules. After we had gotten them in order, Suzie’s father, with her stepmother at his side, presented them at a family meeting. Her father had been concerned that Suzie would resist and her stepmother was sure Suzie would resist. I asked them to be brave, and since Suzie was “sometimes forgetful,” Suzie and I decided in counseling that she would have a printed copy of the rules to carry with her. I told her dad that Suzie could have as many printed copies as she wanted.
At the next session, the couple said that Suzie had copies of their Family Rules in her bookbag, in her jacket pocket, in her purse, and in her room. And, they said, she was doing beautifully—both dad and stepmom were smiling for the first time. Suzie was smiling too. For the first time in years she felt as though she was succeeding. She was improving in school and enjoying school. This was a new experience for Suzie. Indeed she liked the rules. She looked at the rules often and she did what they said. Especially helpful for Suzie was a tool I use called “The Pilot’s Checklist.”