House Rules and Realities

By: Michael G. Conner, Psy.D

Any parenting expert will tell you that most children will thrive when parents communicate well, provide appropriate discipline and when children are taught to face reality and to live by "house rules." House rules are general guidelines and reflect what parents expect from their children. Children are given freedom and choices provided they follow the rules. Consequences result when children do not follow the rules.

There are a lot of realities, house rules and ways to raise children. The following are realities and house rules that underlie a great many approaches. Consider them, discuss them, alter them and then face the decisions that must be made by each and every parent.


There is an important reality that children must face and learn from. Most of all, children are not parents. It is the responsibility of parents to teach and raise their children to survive and be successful. Here are the realities that parents and children must face and wrestle with. These realities may seem harsh, but most parenting problems are the result of a failure of parents to recognize these realities or to consider them consistently.

  • Children are not adults and they are not parents. Children have no authority at all over their parents. That means children have some choices and some freedom but only those choices and freedoms that their parents give them.

  • Children have a legal right to adequate food, shelter, education, health care and clothing. Parents are not required to give their children anything else. Parents are not required to be generous.

  • Children are expected to follow directions and requests made by parents. Parents may give a reason but are not required to explain or justify their decisions to their children.

  • Children are not allowed to strike, use physical force or throw anything as a means to hurt anyone or force anyone to do anything.

  • Children may be given consequences and may lose some freedom, choices and privileges if they are not following the house rules.

  • Parents will become more involved and exercise more control when their children do not or cannot face reality or follow the house rules.

House Rules

There are hundreds of ways to present and describe house rules. While there are many ways to present these rules, there are only a few core issues. The following are rules that parents should consider, discuss and even alter. Keep in mind that you should consult with a mental health professional and parenting expert before you try to implement these rules with children who have a psychological disorder or if they are mentally or emotionally challenged.

1. I will not use profanity including cuss words, vulgarity or using Godís name in vain.

Reason: Using profanity is unkind, disrespectful, unprofessional, and not tolerated by employees, friends, and it can become a bad habit.

2. I will be courteous to family members and guests. There will be no rudeness, putdowns or insults. When I meet people I will say hello, introduce myself and make guests feel welcome.

Reason: Polite and courteous behavior is necessary in order to be successful at school, work, in friendships, marriage and parenting.

3. If I make a mess then I will clean it up and return it to they way I found it (unless a parent gives permission to clean up later). Messes in a family living area will be cleaned up or put away when I am finished. Messes in my room will be cleaned up before going to bed.

Reason: This behavior is necessary to get along with friends, roommates and your wife or husband. Employers expect you to clean up after yourself.

4. Any family member who yells, screams, hits, bites, pushes or throws something in anger will take a mandatory time out for twenty minutes, then apologize, and then discuss the problem.

Reason: Employees are suspended, reprimanded and fired for inappropriate behavior at work. Destructive and violent behavior is a crime and you can be arrested, go to jail or be fined.

5. I will ask before I borrow or take something that belongs to others. Borrowed items will be returned to the proper place and in good condition

Reason: Friends, co-workers and family members lose trust and resent people who damage or take things without asking. Stealing is against the law.

6. All family members will knock and wait for permission to enter a bedroom. Parents may enter after knocking without permission.

Reason: People expect others to respect their privacy at work and in their homes.

7. I will not get out of consequences for breaking house rules by pouting, acting like a victim, crying, acting rude, angry or self-destructive.

Reasons: Making others feel miserable to get what you want is not acceptable behavior at school and work. Employers donít want to employ people like this and people will not want to do business with you. Teachers and trainers will not pass you or give you better grades.

8. If I am upset, depressed, angry or bothered I will take some active positive steps to deal with my feelings and problems. I will talk with my parents or I will communicate with family members to resolve problems.

Reason: Friends, teachers, husbands, wives and employers expect people to work their problems out and not make others feel miserable. Employers will fire you and your spouse will probably ask for a divorce and your children may dislike you a great deal.

9..I will complete my daily and weekly assigned chores as specified by my parents.

Reason: Employees and teachers will expect me to complete my work and assignments in order for me to be paid or receive credit toward my grades. Most employers donít pay for half efforts and incomplete work. People donít get paid for showing up.

10. I will complete my daily and weekly homework as specified by my teachers. Parent will monitor my progress to insure that I am receiving the education I need and is required by law.

Reason: Parents are not teachers and their job is to help and not decide what must be done. They have a responsibility to insure that their children attend school and are educated.

11. I will attend family dinners and family activities unless excused by a parent. I will interact, be polite and respectful. I will ask to be excused before leaving the table or any family activity.

Reason: Social activities, creating friendships, communication skills, cooperative and polite behaviors are essential skills for employee, managers, supervisors, parents and owners of business.

What do parents do once they agree on the rules and realities of their parenting role and responsibility? The answer is simple. Give them to your children, read them to your children and make certain your children know the rules. Make certain they understand the reality of your relationship and responsibility. Discuss all this over and over for about a week or so until you are certain your children understand. If you start at an early age, most children will accept your rules and follow them. It will be harder if you try to implement rules after the behavior of children becomes a problem. You will probably need a parenting expert to help you implement rules with angry teenagers. It is far better to implement rules before your children need them or break them.

Copyright 2002 to 2008, Michael G. Conner