In my ebook How to Build Character at Home I discuss creating family rules that reflect your values. Creating our family rules (kindly tongue, gentle hands, and respect the environment) has probably been one of the best parenting decisions we ever made.
Why? Because each family member knows what is expected of them, and these rules cover every situation we may come across.
Did someone shout? “Remember, we use a kindly tongue.”
Did someone push? “We need to use our gentle hands.”
Is someone making a big mess? “What’s the third family rule?”
Mean words, slamming doors, drawing on walls… it’s all covered by these three rules or, rather, these three values (kindness, gentleness, and respect).
The crucial thing to me, though, is that we know our kids will not follow these rules all the time – even if they know them. This is because we all make mistakes. It’s part of growing up and it’s part of being human.
That is why we also include forgiveness in the carrying out of our family rules: we have do-overs.
A do-over is the chance to rectify a mistake, forgive (each other and ourselves), and try again.
When someone shouts, they are reminded of the rule and then they get to try again. “Now you can say what you need to say in a kind voice.”
After a push and a reminder of the rule, “How can you make your brother feel better?” Maybe a hug, maybe an apology, it’s up to the child. “Now let’s talk about why you pushed…”
Though we often hold our children responsible for messes they make totally on their own, it’s also understood in our home that we all pitch in to keep our home tidy – that’s why we do family service. I often help my kids clean up “their” mess because they also chip in on a daily basis with the laundry and dishes. We’re a team and we help each other out.
Our kids can remind us of the family rules, too. “That wasn’t a very kind voice, mama…” (Yikes, he’s right…)
Thankfully – and probably as a result of the fact that I give them plenty of opportunities to rectify their own mistakes – the kids are eager to let me try again. We forgive and we move on… we don’t hold grudges, we try not to get hung up over “consequences” and we take it all in stride because (gasp) none of us are perfect. This is an important lifelong skill I only wish I learned earlier.
Of course, just because we have these rules it doesn’t mean nothing ever goes wrong or it doesn’t take time to figure out various situations. And yes – sometimes we do have consequences. But these are generally natural consequences – things that happen simply because of the choices we made. For example, taking too long to clean up after dinner may mean we don’t have time to play another game before bed.
So consequences aside (because that is a whole different topic to talk about) it’s just easy to always go back to the rules. We have a place to turn which sets the framework for dealing with most anything that we come across.
We all hold ourselves (and each other) accountable and we all get the chance to try again. The rules follow our values: kindness, gentleness, respect, and forgiveness. We feel united working towards them.
It works for us.
What are your family rules? Are they working for you?
To find out more about creating a family culture of character building, check out my ebook How to Build Character at Home. For more articles about thoughtful parenting, you may like to browse this page.