Setting household boundaries (or rules) is very important for children to help maintain peace in the home. Children need to understand boundaries, as well as consequences. In order for these boundaries to be effective, parents must be involved in both the process and holding their children accountable. Rules should be age appropriate. When children are involved in the decision making process of establishing the boundaries, they are more likely to abide by them and accept the consequences if a boundary is broken.
I was recently asked by a mom of 3 to help create rules for her family vacation home. After gathering all the rules she wanted to establish, I called for a family meeting. This family meeting took place after lunch at the kitchen table. I opened conversation by asking the children why they thought their parents wanted to create rules for their beach house. Their responses included:
“So we don’t mess it up.” -7 years old
“So we know what we are supposed to do.”-5 years old
“So we don’t get in trouble.” -4 years old
Instead of telling them what the rules were going to be, I asked them how they felt about creating a Family Pledge for their beach house. I defined ‘a pledge’ to them as a promise, and we discussed the importance of this commitment. They all agreed that they would like to be a part of the pledge. Each child took turns sharing different rules they thought would be important in keeping order in their home. With guidance, they covered every rule their mom had listed as important. To put a positive twist on the pledge, they had to start their sentence with “I will….”.
When we were finished, I let them know that I was going to take their pledge statements home and create a large, official pledge poster. We set a date on the calendar to have an official Pledge Signing Party.
After creating the poster, I took it to Kinkos to be laminated and purchased “sealing” stickers at Michaels. When I arrived to the Pledge Signing Party, I asked the oldest child to read each pledge statement. At the end, each child was asked to put their crab “seal” of approval on the document and then sign it at the bottom.
The Beach Pledge was hung up on the electrical box in the kitchen-a convenient spot easy for everyone to read.
“The Pilon Beach House Pledge applies to everyone… old and young… short and tall. Clear expectations allow for lots of fun! This has been so helpful that we are going to create another pledge for our current home! Thank you so much!”
-Mom of the Pilon House Pledge.