The family unit can only run smoothly when respect, rules and a clear set of boundaries are firmly entrenched. In my previous post, Saying No to our kids, I wrote about the need to instill in your children the notion of accepting that ‘no means no’. This is often necessary for a childs safety, for the efficient functioning of a household or simply to help a child realise that they cant always get what they want.
I can hear already the cries of the possibly more ‘politically correct’ parents than I , as they cringe at the eroding of a childs right to self expression and of the derailment of the little peoples input into the decision making processes of the family unit.
But fear not, for I am happy to let my children have a say in many matters that concern them, its just that we as parents get to choose which matters they have a say in, and those that they do not. In other words there are negotiable rules and non-negotiable rules.
The non-negotiables can easily be justified under 2 headings:
Safety (any behaviour that puts themselves or others at risk)
- a toddler must hold my hand when crossing the road
- a seatbelt must always be worn when riding in a car
- a helmut must be worn when riding bikes and scooters
- violent and aggressive behaviour will not be tolerated
Respect (behaviour that disrespects themselves or others)
- Name calling, teasing, bullying
- destroying property
These non negotiables are simply that. They are boundaries that must be adhered to, they are the “No’s” worth following through with and they are the times when a child will walk away with a valuable lesson.
There are other times however, when we may let our children have more say in what they can and can’t do. These are the negotiable rules, and these will be the rules that differ with each family and with each parenting style. These are the battles not always worth fighting, the behaviours you are happy to accept and the times when you let your children negotiate a little more in order to arm them with a sense of having some say in the decision making processes.
Some examples of more negotiable rules in my household are:
- what the children wear (within reason)
- how they style their hair
- what television shows they watch (again within reason)
- how much they wrestle with each other (although I sometimes stipulate that it is to be isolated to outdoors on the trampoline)
- how much tv they watch
- computer games they play, music they listen to etc.
These more negotiable rules are really dependant on what is important to you as a family and what you as a parent believe are important aspects of your family life. They can also alter depending on changing circumstances and be revised as a child matures and develops. And remember that all kids are different, so know your kids and know which decisions they have the ability to make and those which they may not be ready for.
It doesnt matter what your individual negotiable family rules are therefore, what matters is that your children feel they have some input into these areas. It is important they feel they are being heard, that their opinions are valid and at these times they are having some say in the matters that concern them. Apart from giving them some responsibility and independence, it also helps to prevent the rebelliousness of a child who feels they have no say. A little give and take therefore, can only help to enforce those non-negotiable rules of your household……those times when no will always remain no.
So whatever your family rules are, be sure to let your children know that there are some that are negotiable some of the time, and there will be others that are simply never negotiable. And remember that whatever you decide at any particular time, be sure to stick to your original decision to avoid being worn down by the tears, tantrums and arguments.
Do you have a clear set of rules in your household that are never negotiable? How are you able to enforce these rules whilst still giving your child a say in other aspects of family life?