Summer Essentials: Rules vs. Wishes

By Dr. Randy Cale

As we are moving into summer, many parents find that they need to ‘tighten’ up the rules at home. Perhaps…the house is getting sloppy, the kids are sleeping in till noon and Mom is working harder and harder, while kids seems to show less respect and do not help out at all

Often new household rules grow out of frustration and exhaustion, as Mom or Dad see the momentum of things heading down the wrong path.

Depending on your family, you may decide you need a rule about picking up your stuff, or a rule about not playing ball in the house. Perhaps it’s a rule about bedtime or getting up in the morning. Hopefully, there are rules about doing a few chores, and staying engaged in some reading and math during the summer.

Rules Establish Structure and Kids Need This

A well implemented set of simple rules establishes a structure and rhythm at home, that actually helps reduce anxiety and calm children. Children need to a have a clear sense that someone is in charge, who knows what to do.

Do they like rules? Do they ask for rules? Of course not!

Most will argue and fight about your rules. That’s their job! When you understand this, then you expect them to complain and argue about your new rules. Ignore this. Do not engage or justify your choices, when it comes to rules about the home.

Simply understand this: Your children cannot know what is good for them. If you let them choose, they will eat pizza every night, never touch a veggie and watch TV or play video games till they fall asleep.

Do not be deceived. Your child’s wishes are a barometer for what they WANT, not what they NEED. Repeatedly following our impulsive wants (i.e., the tendency of most children) will only make us overweight, lazy and, in the end, unhappy.

Most Rules Are Just Wishes: Avoid This Mistake!

The biggest mistake made in setting rules at home is quite common. You get frustrated, decide to change things, and sit the kids down to explain the ‘new rules.’ And then, you expect them to follow the rules.

Your rules are not really rules. This is simply a ‘wish list.’ Why?

Because rules are only wishes, unless they have a consequence attached. In other words, your rules typically mean very little unless you attach consequences WHEN there is a violation of the rule. This is how most children learn new rules, when mom or dad starts to change things at home.

The rule is useless, unless this formula is followed. The truth is that most rules actually make things worse because it causes more bickering and fighting between parents and children. So the bottom line is this: Only set new rules if you are willing to stick consistently to a consequence when the rule is broken! Then, you will see that your children are capable of learning quickly.

Often, I have parents expressing something like this, “My kids should just listen, and follow the rules. What’s wrong with them?” My response is usually along these lines:

Children should not just listen. Instead, get with
reality. Children must be taught to listen and follow the
rules! That’s our job as parents…to learn how to teach effectively!

This is the false thinking that is harming our children, and undermining their future. We cannot just follow the moment of society, and the direction that video games, media forces and fast food are taking us. If we do, our kids will continue to argue and fight for the most convenient, most immediate rewards. These are rarely the most valuable. These rarely teach discipline. They never work our muscles or our minds in productive ways.

Our children need a few rules. Not too many, but the important ones are ESSENTIAL. I cover these in my programs, but for now…please accept the need to teach rules with consequences. And expect the drama and whining and complaints. It’s normal. Just ignore, and carry on!

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About Dr Cale

During the past 23 years, in working with hundreds of families, I began to realize that many parents, just like you, were showing up in my office well-educated—but getting poor results. They had been to therapy, they had read the books and even attended other training programs—yet their children were still not listening, not doing homework and not cooperating.

I discovered that many of these parents were parenting with false ideas about how to predictable and reliably shape and change their children’s behavior. As a result, I began to develop ideas about the core behavior change principles…and how to turn each of these into specific parenting solutions. As long as I was able to stay true to these principles, the most challenging problems quickly faded away.

My purpose with this program is to give you access to the strategies that come from these core principles. By practicing and following through with the techniques in this program, you will be able to transform any set of negative behavior patterns in your home. Your kids will be happier and more responsible. They will quickly learn to be respectful, cooperative and helpful around the house. Tantrums, whining, complaining and negativity will be a thing of the past.