House rules for kids

Setting house rules teaches kids that the world doesn’t revolve around them. By starting to follow a simple set of rules, they learn that they also have to consider others with their actions. Moreover, establishing house rules early on sets kids up to expect them outside of the house. “If they can’t follow your house rules, they won’t be able to do it in kindergarten and beyond,’ says psychotherapist Ingrid Schweiger, Ph.D., author of Self-Esteem for a Lifetime.

Here’s how to set the groundwork for house rules.

Write them down.

In order to respect your house rules, your kids have to know exactly what they are, so sit down and explain them. Pick a handful of simple rules that will be easy to follow (you can always add more later). Then post them somewhere everyone can see them, like on the fridge or near your front door.

Talk about why these rules matter.

Your child may not immediately understand why respecting the rules helps everyone in the family, but you can break it down for him. For example, explain that leaving toys out may seem harmless, but it creates a messy household for everyone, or that roughhousing might seem like fun, but someone could get hurt.

Establish consequences.

Be clear about what will happen if the rules are broken. And—especially at first—be prepared to repeat the rules regularly and to follow through with those consequences if necessary.