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successful strategies

Successful Strategies for Establishing Rules

by Angie Camp

The Rules of Making Rules

Rules are everywhere and the successful strategies to teach them seem to be hidden…

No matter where we go or whatever our age, there are rules we must follow. From obeying our parents as a kid, to simply playing a board game, rules are necessary. Establishing rules creates boundaries, giving adults and children alike a feeling of safety and security. They also provide structure.

Some Rules Are Super Clear…

Signs, such as “STOP” and speed limits are boundaries drivers face daily. They require obedience. If not followed, they could have some pretty serious consequences. Law enforcement officers are responsible for ensuring these rules are followed. If broken, they have a duty to write a ticket, give a breathalyzer test, or make an arrest. 

Similarly, there are some rules in parenting that are clear-cut. Just like drivers, children must choose to obey them or expect consequences. Parents bear the responsibility of disciplining the rule-breaker. Unfortunately, many parents do not think it’s a big deal. Oftentimes, we let them off the hook. We downplay the importance of ensuring the rules are followed. Consider the possible consequences if a police officer pulled over a drunk driver, but downplayed the importance of keeping the intoxicated driver off of the road?

The Challenges of Parenting Well…

Parenting is the most important job in the world, but also the hardest. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just fire our kids for not following the family company’s rules and just hire other kids? Seriously, though, while some rules are simple, there are a lot of gray areas. Regardless, we must make every effort to consistently enforce them all. 

I believe we are living in a time when it’s the most difficult to parent well. Life is so busy. Many parents are having to do it single-handedly. This can make our plans seem impossible! But, we CAN use successful strategies, we just have to know which tools to use! Managing work, a home, and kids’ activities are exhausting. There’s not enough time or energy to fight every battle. These are major contributing factors to inconsistency. Either idle threats are made without following through, or it is simply not dealt with. 

I believe we are also living in a time when parenting well is the most vital. I’m not sure if “parental fatigue” is a real term, but it is a real thing. Regardless, no matter how exhausted we are, we must make time to fight the battles. The key to overcoming “parental fatigue” is changing our strategy.

Changing the Dynamic of Establishing Rules…

So what’s the answer in changing the dynamic that makes establishing rules and enforcing them more achievable? To start, make the rules clear…for them and you. Having a roundtable with our kids to discuss it is a great way to do it. They must understand that establishing rules is for their protection, not punishment.

Suggestions to Help Make it Stick…

1- Write down the rules and consequences for breaking them and post them where they are visible on a daily basis.

2- Make the rules appropriate to each child’s age and ability. If there are three children in the family, bedtimes should vary, depending on their age.

3- Use rules as a system for promotion. As children mature and prove they can be trusted, some rules can be adjusted, giving them more freedom.

Reflecting God…

There are also consequences when rules are broken. To have rules, yet not enforce them only teaches our kids to expect no consequences for their disobedience. This is dangerous territory. The way we discipline our kids is how they perceive God’s discipline. If we do not require obedience, more than likely, they will not obey God.

The Coach Approach…

A lot of our kids’ compliance has to do with our approach. Research shows that specific, warm, concrete, understandable directions and expectations can improve a child’s behavior, prevent potentially dangerous situations, cull parental frustrations and foster appropriate behavior. 

Rather than giving vague commands, clearly state the boundary. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t yell in the house,” say, “Please use your inside voice.” Another example would be enjoying a privilege. Instead of saying, “Get your homework done,” say, “Finish your homework before asking for screen time.” Finally, another example is to give a definite timeline. Instead of saying, “You better not get home late,” say, “I expect you to be home by 11 pm.” Using these kinds of phrasings helps them to think about it differently. Instead of giving them commands, you are giving them instructions. That is the true essence of discipline.

To Sum It All Up

We must always make sure that when establishing rules and consequences, we make sure that its foundation is God’s word. The goal is not to have our children obey to make our lives easier but to ensure they are walking in obedience to God. Implement these successful strategies today!

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 

3 John 1:4

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Angie Camp is an author, speaker, and Christian Counselor. Aside from being a Mother and Grandmother “Peaches,” her primary focus is walking with women and girls along their journey from brokenness to healing, reminding them that the goal is not merely to survive, but to soar.

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