Parenting: Setting Rules and Expectations

Parenting is one of the most rewarding experiences. At the same time parenting can also be one of the greatest challenges too. Often parents struggle in figuring out how to set boundaries and rules for their children.This article provides you with some basic skills to get you started in setting rules and expectations for your children.

Here are some of our guidelines for what to do and what not to do.

What to NOT Say or Do (Ineffective verbal messages or actions):

  • “It’s time to take a bath, ok?”
  • “Would you just try to be nice once in a while?”
  • “It would be nice to see your homework done a little earlier.”
  • Allowing children to walk away from a mess.
  • Cleaning up children’s messes for them.
  • Dressing children when they can dress themselves.
  • Ignoring misbehavior in the hope it will go away.
  • Ignoring misbehavior when you’re in a good mood.

What to DO (Firm Limits: When No Really Means No)

  • Keep your words and actions consistent.
  • Send clear signals about rules and expectations.

Keep the focus of your message on behavior

  • (Goal is to reject unacceptable behavior, not the child.)
  • Example: “Stop teasing your brother” rather than “You’re  such a pest!”

Be direct, clear and specific

  • Example: “Be home by 6:00 for supper” rather than “Don’t stay out too late.”

Use a normal, matter-of-fact, voice as much as possible

  • “Non-emotional parenting.”
  • A raised voice conveys loss of control; highly entertaining.

Tell Your Child the Consequences of Not Obeying

  • Natural consequences: “Video game off with no arguing when time is up; or you lose your time tomorrow.”
  • ‘You’re not arguing, are you?”
    • “You choose to _argue, you choose to lose ____”
  • Whatever carries weight currently; technology, sleepovers, Verizon, etc.
  • These are privileges to be earned.

 Follow through on your words with action

  • If a child does decide to test, calmly follow through and take the toy/privilege away.
    • “We’ll try again tomorrow.
    • I know you can do it!”

Children trained with these signals understand what parents mean. They learn to take their parents’ words  seriously and cooperate when asked. The result is better communication, less testing, and less fighting and conflict.

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