Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Establishing (and keeping!) ground rules for kids

School’s out for summer and there has been an unauthorized, not so subtle shift of power here in the Lyons Den.  In the blink of an eye and a few hot, muggy days, the kids seem to be ruling the roost and I don't like it. Not one little bit.

There are shoes strewn across the living room, clothes all over the bedrooms, popsicle sticks on the porch and lollipop sticks on the dining room rug.  On the rug!  To make things worse, my demands to pick up and clean up either fall upon deaf ears or are met with some combination of "No.", "Not now Mom!" or perhaps most infuriatingly, "What?  What Mom? WHAT? Did you say something?"

Well kids, yes, I have something to say: I hope you enjoyed your brief reign of power because it is over. Over!  And how, you might wonder, do I plan to reign them in?  By putting them to work for me. By having them think about, articulate, write and enforce our house rules. That's my plan and here they are:  

To begin, I had a quiet, one on one meeting with our seven year old, the leader of the pack.  I had a few things in mind. For starters, I know I'm always more prone to remember things if I write them down so, I had him jot down our family rules after a nice, calm discussion about why they are so important to the happy, healthy functioning of our household.  And, knowing that our little ones think he walks on air (and, in fairness, they've been playing a really great ongoing game of "school" where he is the teacher), I decided that he would be the one to present the rules to rest of the kids. Truth be told, we did it together to ensure there wasn't an uprising and, it's really too soon to tell if this approach is working but I have to say, we're off to a good start.  I didn't trip over any wayward shoes or misplaced toys as I settled in to write this and that, my friends, is progress.  Should you wish to read the specifics of our rules or perhaps adopt a few as your own,please read on...
  • No jumping on beds:  Well, if you ask the kids to help write the rules, it's no wonder this is at the top of this list. They hear it a lot. Especially since our three-year old triplets recently made the move from cribs to beds and have been unofficially dubbed the "mattress monkeys."  For the record, it is "jumping" not "juping" but again, if you ask the kids to write the rules, you have to expect a few spelling errors! 
  • No balls in house:  Pretty self explanatory, right? This is another one they hear a lot and I'm hoping they finally start paying attention to!  
  • Be a good listener:  This is perhaps my #1 gripe.  They just don't listen.  But, in fairness, they pointed out that I'm not such a great listener myself. Looks like we’ll be working together to improve our listening skills for the rest of the summer. 
  • Put away your laundry.  They can do this.  At 3, 5 and 7 years old, they are well equipped to put their laundry in their drawers. It saves me time, gives them a sense of accomplishment and is good for all of us! 
  • Make your bed every day. See above. This is an age-appropriate task they can all tackle.  Especially since the triplets’ “beds” are actually crib mattresses on the floor.   
  • No yelling.  If you look closely, this might be read as “Mo” yelling but, that is most definitely not the intention. I suspect “no” yelling is going to be a tough one – especially since I was reminded that I am guilty of excessive yelling myself. One more area of improvement for all of us!
  • No hurting others (including feelings).  This was born from the premise that “hands are not for hitting”, “teeth are not for biting”, etc.  But, I applaud our little ones for recognizing that words can hurt too -- and that it’s important to consider and respect other people’s feelings.  Gee, it seems like maybe they are listening… sometimes, anyway!  
  • Eat your meals.  If your house is anything like ours, you’re familiar with the whole “am I finished yet?”/“do I have to eat that?” routine.  Our response is consistently “you are finished when your tummy is full and there is no food left on your plate” and “yes, you have to eat it. It’s what we’re serving for breakfast/lunch/dinner and there are no substitutes.” Which, I’m kind of glad to see translates to “eat your meals.” If I could add “without complaining”, I would but, beggars can’t be choosers! 
  • Put your dishes in the dishwasher.  Ok, they don’t load the dishwasher like I do but, let’s face it, NO ONE loads the dishwasher like I do. I have to remind myself of that and just be grateful they are clearing their places!
  •  Don’t ask for more.  This is apparently how they translated “be grateful for what you have.”  We talk a lot about gratitude – for the roof over heads, the food on our plate, our family, our friends and our health.  I hope that one day it sinks in a bit more deeply than “don’t ask for more” but for now, I’ll take it! 
  • Say your Ps and Qs.  Or, put another way, “please” and “thank yous.”  As in, “Kids, if you will please pay attention to these rules, I will listen more, yell less and promise to thank you for making your bed, putting the laundry away, loading the dishwasher and more importantly, treating each other and all you meet with kindness and respect."  

What are your house rules?  I'd love know -- especially since I know this is an imperfect and incomplete list... like most parts of parenting, setting (and sticking to!) the rules is a work in progress! 

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