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Family House Rules for Real Life

Gabrielle Applebury
Family reading house rules

Creating family house rules is a great way to set appropriate boundaries and expectations for everyone within the household. While children and teens may offer some ideas for rules, it is crucial that the parent(s) or caregiver(s) ultimately set the rules and establish the structure of the household.

Family House Rules

Family house rules can help:

  • Create household structure
  • Set appropriate boundaries and expectations
  • Create a loving and supportive home environment
  • Help your child or children learn about responsibility and trust
  • Create a safe home environment
  • Teach your child or children about actions, consequences, and accountability

Keep in mind that if the parent(s) and/or caregiver(s) don't follow their own rules and aren't able to set an example when it comes to accountability, that their child or children will internalize this behavior and may not believe that they need to respect the household rules either. This can lead to confusion within the child or children and increased conflict within the family.

House Rules for Toddlers

Examples of house rules for your toddler:

  • Clean up your toys.
  • Say please and thank you.
  • Be gentle with others, including pets.
  • Hold hands when crossing the street.
  • Use your inside voice in the house.
  • Clear your dish when done eating.

When house rules are broken, be sure to calmly explain why this rule is in place so your child understands why it's important. For example, if your child is rough with a pet in the house, you can say that it hurts and feels like that time you got an ouchie doing (insert example). Then, say, "We love our pets and want to use a gentle touch with them." You can show them an example of this and ask them to do the same and say sorry (if they are old enough to do so). Give praise immediately after they touch the pet gently to reinforce this good choice.

Family with two kids

House Rules for Pre-Teens

Examples of house rules that work for families with pre-teens:

  • Help set the table.
  • Clear your plate after eating.
  • Be polite when asking for something.
  • Make your bed.
  • Keep your room clean.
  • Respect each other.
  • Be honest.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Express your emotions in healthy ways.

House Rules for Teenagers

Examples of rules for teenagers:

  • Follow your curfew and contact your parent or caregiver if you will be late.
  • Be honest.
  • Maintain trust.
  • Ask for help when needed.
  • Honor your emotional process.
  • Help with chores (setting and clearing table, keeping room tidy, helping with laundry).
  • Be respectful of each other.
  • Ask for space politely when needed.
  • Resolve conflict appropriately.
  • Respect boundaries.

What Are Some Examples of Rules?

While examples of rules can be a helpful starting point, it's important to create rules that work for your particular household. Household rule examples:

  • Be kind.
  • Be honest.
  • Maintain trust.
  • Be respectful of others.
  • Listen to each other.
  • Help out with given chores.
  • Take care of your items and keep room clean.
  • Ask for help when needed.
  • Resolve conflict appropriately.

Why Do You Need House Rules?

House rules create a safe environment where the parent(s) or caregiver(s) establish appropriate rules and boundaries that aim to:

  • Help children develop insight into their own behavior and choices
  • Teach the child that no matter what mistakes they make, that their parent(s) or caregiver(s) will be there for them in a loving way
  • Teach pro-social behavior
  • Give children and teens structure
  • Decrease household conflict

What Are Some Family Expectations?

Some examples of family expectations include:

  • Be kind to others.
  • Be honest with each other.
  • Resolve conflicts calmly.
  • Listen to each other.
  • Respect each other's boundaries.
  • Try your best.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Express your emotions.

Family Rules and Consequences

Appropriate consequences will vary depending on the age group. Keep in mind if your consequences are inappropriately harsh, this can lead to your child withholding information from you, more conflict, as well as your child feeling like they are unable to fully trust you and/or be themselves around you. When discussing behavior, never label your child as bad or naughty. Instead, focus on their choices (not a good choice). Examples of appropriate consequences:

  • For a toddler: may lose a favorite toy for a few minutes, sit quietly and think about their choices until calm and ready to talk
  • For a pre-teen: may lose screen privileges or an outing, think about their choices and to let the parent or caregiver know when they are ready to talk
  • For a teen: may lose their phone, an event, or allowance for a period of time depending on the circumstances, discuss thought process with parent or caregiver

The best way to teach your child about consequences is to speak with them in age appropriate language. Taking something away from them is temporary versus actually teaching them how to make healthy decisions. Ideally, when your child makes a mistake, you teach them how to identify their emotions, get to a calm state, and then discuss with you what happened. Toddlers, children, and teens act out to test boundaries and to understand how much control they have. Developmentally, it is also normal for each age stage (toddler, children, teens) to rebel, which is actually them better understanding their identity unattached to yours. This is an important aspect of children developing into healthy adults.

Tips for Creating Appropriate House Rules

To create appropriate house rules:

  • Consider your child's age.
  • Think about what values are most important to instill in your child.
  • Think about if you are able to embody and enforce every single rule you set.
  • Be flexible when it comes to changing the rules as your child or children age.
  • Try not to make rules negative at all (use gentle touching versus don't hit).
  • Don't include consequences on the rule chart as these will vary depending on the situation.

Household Rules Chart

Using a family house rules template can help you create a list of rules that are most important to your family. Place the family rule chart in a highly visible space where everyone in the house has access to it. For little ones, you may also consider adding pictures or stickers that embody the specific rule. If you need help downloading, use the Guide for Adobe Printables.

Household rules chart

What Are Some Family Rules?

Family rules can help set up appropriate boundaries so everyone knows what is expected of them. Be sure to adjust your family rules according to your child or children's ages and keep in mind that rules will only work if they are suitable for your child's age and are enforced appropriately.

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Family House Rules for Real Life