Improving a Child’s Behavior: Setting Family Values and Rules

Establishing Family Values and Rules | Dr. Robert Melillo

The most common reason for negative behavior in kids is inconsistent messages from parents.  Parents – especially parents of children with behavior problems – must have a set of rules that they establish together, agree on, stick to, and explain to their children in clear, easy-to-understand language. Children should be able and be expected to follow them because the rules will be in writing.

Setting Family Rules

When children don’t have clearly defined rules and continual communications about your expectations, it not only creates confusion and frustration between children and their parents but also generates conflict between parents themselves. Having a formal set of rules and values is one of the most basic things you can do to improve the overall behavior of your children and make your house a more positive place to live. Setting these rules can be easy using the following steps:

  • Get on the Same Page: It’s imperative for parents to be in agreement. Sit down with your partner and actually discuss what to expect from each of your children and how you would ideally like them to behave in all aspects of their lives.
  • Design a Set of Family Values: Do you have traditional family values? What do you stand for? To be effective at parenting, you need to create a common vision of what you want your family to look like, act like, and strive for. This is what a set of values establishes for a family.
  • Establish Your Rules: Rules are steps a family takes to make sure they stick to and stand by their values. They are the details or specifics of how you expect everyone to act on a day-to-day basis.
  • Call a Family Get-Together: Once the two of you are in agreement with each other on values and rules, you need to get the buy-in from your kids. The goal is to get them involved and excited about it. Family communication is important and should be frequent. Keep it consistent and have a family meeting once per week.
  • Work on the Rules Together: Enlist your children in a discussion around family rules. Ask your children to come up with five values, write them down and discuss. Have a similar discussion around family rules.
  • Put It in Writing: Create a contract and have everyone in the family sign it. Once the rules are written down, they need to be consistently enforced. You are the enforcer.
  • Discuss the Consequences: Have a second meeting to discuss the consequences of breaking the rules, which should be agreed upon by the whole family.
  • Keep Boundaries Secure: Children need boundaries – need to know their limits. It’s impossible to have family harmony without them. Kids without boundaries will feel anxious and insecure and act out. Safe and secure children are generally well-behaved children. Rules are the best way to establish boundaries and enforce them consistently.

For a sample list of values and rules and for more information about how you can establish your own family rules and values, check out Chapter 7 of my book Reconnected Kids. Once you get your values established and your rules in motion, you’ll see a big difference in family life very quickly. By taking control and working with your children to foster family communication, you can find family harmony and happiness.