Rules [Quick wins]

In our house, we have three primary rules that guide the way we parent our kids. Today, I’m sharing the three rules and how we talk to our young children about them. 

Here they are:

  1. Respect the rights of other people,  
  2. Protect and care for the environment (both inside the house and out), 
  3. Take only reasonable risks. 

It can be really easy to fall into the trap of creating a lot of little rules, often based on annoying behaviors. Don’t throw sand. Don’t touch the exercise bike. 

You are allowed to change your rules. If you have too many, you might need to reevaluate and decide which ones to keep after this episode. Because the truth is, they may cost you more time and energy than they are worth. Thanks again for tuning in to today’s episode!

Hi there and welcome to episode 225. Today. I have a quick wins episode for you and we're talking about rules. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based on my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based on research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.

Hi there Denaye here. This is a quick wins episode, which I shared a couple of weeks ago. I'm going to be doing it over the summer. These episodes are short about five minutes in length and offer some real concrete tips. Today, we're talking about rules. How are we going to talk about rules in five minutes? Because rules can get so complicated. It can be really easy to fall into the trap of creating a lot of little rules, usually based on annoying behaviors from our kids. And it can get confusing to enforce all these rules, especially if you have more than one adult in the house, if you're co-parenting with your partner or another adult, if you have caregivers in the home, if the grandparents are taking care of the kids, having a lot of little rules can be really difficult to enforce. I want to, first of all, tell you that you are allowed to change your rules.

After listening to this episode if you decide you have too many little rules, you might need to reevaluate and decide which ones to keep, and which ones to let go, because the truth is some of them might be costing you more time and energy than they're worth. So we have to ask ourselves, what is the value of these rules? If your kids could ask you, well, why is that a rule? And your only answer is because I said so, that usually just isn't cutting it. When we're making rules for our kids, we have to really understand the underlying importance of the rules that will allow us to enforce them more readily. And it will allow our kids to value them more authentically. So in our house, we really just have three rules. These rules are umbrella rules of a sort. They are the core concepts that underly the vast majority of requests that I make of my children and behavior management strategies.

These rules help me to stay focused on the most important things that I'm teaching my kids. And they helped me let go of the little things. They are, respect the rights of other people, protect and take care of the environment, both the things inside of the house and outside of the house and take only reasonable risks. I'll say them again. Number one, respect the rights of other people. Number two, protect and care for the environment, both inside and out. And number three, take only reasonable risks. I want to make special note of the fact that some of the words that I'm using here, like respect other people, protect the environment, take reasonable risks. These can be vague words to kids. We can't just throw these words around thinking that our kids are going to know how to understand them. So on a first start by giving you a couple of examples of little rules that have sort of popped up around our house, that I've tried to enforce and have found to be futile and not worth of my time.

And then I'll give you a couple of examples of how I do enforce the rules that we have and the language that I use recently, my daughter has been playing in our sandbox a lot. She's four, and she throws sand up in the air and some of it gets out of the sandbox and some of it gets in her hair. Okay. A lot of it gets in her hair and it drives me crazy. Having a scalp full of sand. It's a really annoying behavior and I've tried to stop it and she keeps doing it. So I reevaluated is this rule, no throwing sand in the air, really a value? Is it really serving any purpose other than the fact that it's a behavior that annoys me and it takes an extra couple seconds to shake the hair out of her scalp at the end of the day?

Yeah. I decided it's not really worth it because I was spending more time trying to enforce this arbitrary rule than I was actually getting the sand out of her hair and off her body. So now she's throws the sand and I just take a deep breath and try to stay calm. Another rule that we've recently been going back and forth about in our house is my husband recently created a rule that my six year old son is not allowed to touch our exercise bike. The exercise bike has a screen on it, and he'll often go over and just kind of like flick through the variety of classes on it. He doesn't hurt anything on it. He's just kind of curious and bored and we'll play around with the screen for a few minutes here and there. So after my husband made that rule, you can't touch the screen.

You can't touch the bike at all. I frowned because I'm in the house much more often and taking care of the kids more often than my husband is because he works longer hours. And now that this rule has been created, I'm the one that's going to have to deal with enforcing it. And it's really hard to enforce arbitrary rules. And I feel like this rule is kind of arbitrary. It doesn't fall under the umbrella of any of the three rules at our house. He's not disrespecting other people. He's not harming anything within our environment and he's not taking any unreasonable risks. So after talking with my husband, we're going to let this go. We are going to pick our battles on this. Now you'll find that a lot of your little rules actually do fall under the umbrella of the bigger rules. You might have a rule about no name calling.

Well, no name calling is teaching your kids, how to other people. You might have a rule about no throwing toys. Well that's rule number two, you must protect and care for your environment. And part of that is not breaking things. You might have a rule about not running in the street. Well that's rule number three, taking only reasonable risks. Now these rules aren't anything that I go over frequently with my kids. They're four and six. They're really young to be understanding these vague words. They're more for me to get some structure and organization to the rule system within my own mind. So how do I talk to my kids about these rules? First of all, I model all of these rules myself in my own behavior. And that's the most important and effective way of teaching our kids, how to follow these rules, but let's look at number one, respect the rights of other people.

Here's how I talk about this one. Let's say my son is following my daughter around the house, imitating her, which drives her totally crazy. I would say, it's my job as your mother to teach you how to respect other people. That means when she says no, no means no. When she says stop, stop means stop. You have to respect her and her body. Number two, protect and care for the environment. Here's how I talk about this one. It's my job. As your mother to teach you how to protect and take care of the world. When you throw your garbage out in the water, it can drift out and some of the animals can end up eating it and they can get sick and die. So it's really important that we throw our garbage in the trash. Number three, take only reasonable risks. Here's how I talk about this one as your mother, it's my job to teach you how to be safe.

That means you have to stay where I can see you. You can run up ahead on the trail, but make sure you look back and check that you can see me and hear me when I call for you. All right, I hope this helps if you've enjoyed this episode and you'd like to share with friends, take a screenshot of yourself, listening to it and post it up to your Instagram stories. Make sure you tag me so I can share it too. Thanks again for tuning in. And if you have a minute, leave a rating or review for the podcast. I appreciate it. And I appreciate you. I'll talk with you soon.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.