Raising Well Behaved Kids
In my humorous how-to book, 35 Things Your Teens Won't Tell You So I Will, I lay down rules about every aspect of a teen's life. Most or many of those rules are applicable to children of all ages. Here are just a few of the rules and the reasoning behind them.
If you are one of these free spirits who feels you don't need any rules, trust me: You need them. Without them, the household will resemble Day One in the Bible: Formless chaos, which is never a good thing. And if you don't stick to the rules you lay down, your house will soon come to resemble Noah's Ark, after the animals have spent 40 days on the ship.
Rule #1:Everyone has chores, and everyone must do them. Even the smallest child can help put away toys. An older child can wash dishes after snacking or eating. (One of my house rules was no dishes in the sink.) Tweens and teens can do their own laundry. A family is like a ship, and hopefully, that ship is well oiled and is going someplace. By emphasizing that the rules apply to everyone, the parent demonstrates there is no favoritism (and therefore lessens sibling rivalry).
It also gives the child the message that, under your roof, there is both individual and group responsibility. Teens can cook a meal and may even prefer to, especially if a parent's cooking skills are mildly challenged and deficient. (Mine were. This is sad, but true. I'll be the first to admit that my middle son's macaroni and cheese beat my sticky, starchy version, hands down.) Children usually don't mind pitching in. When kids help out, the parents are less cranky -- what kid wants a cranky parent?
No name calling. Your teen should not be permitted to call you dumb, stupid, idiot or any regional variation thereof. Not all children understand this principle, especially if they have friends whose parents allow them to speak disrespectfully to them. (By the same token, make certain that you don't call your children names.) There should be zero tolerance for this, and that goes doubly for obscene speech.
Children must tell their parents where they are going or plan to go before they go there (or before lying to them and going to some other place). We live in a dangerous world, and our kids do dangerous things (kids don't have good judgment). If your kids ask for an explanation, you can say either, "because I'm the mommy, that's why" or that parents get gray hair prematurely and our hearts skip beats when we don't know where our children are. And who wants an old-looking, heartsick parent?
Children must obey curfews and bedtimes. Same as the above. Plus, on some level, even younger children understand that they need their sleep to function (and so do their parents, perhaps even more than they do!). Kids like school for socializing and don't particularly mind if they are as tired as zombies, so we have to mind for them!
No friends in the house without parents in the house. You don't owe your children an explanation, except to tell them that, if you were to get sued, you all might not have a roof over your heads. Most kids get it when you give this explanation.
For more parenting tips, pick up Ellen Pober Rittberg's book, 35 Things Your Teen Won't Tell You, So I Will (Turner Publishing).
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