Friday, 14 May 2010

The Rules

One of the nice things about a new house and a new life is you can convince a trusting 3-year-old that certain things are going to be different.  Things that, if the truth be told, don't necessarily actually have to be different.  Things like "no toys in the kichen" and "we only have apple juice at breakfast".  The sort of things, in other words, that I've been trying to change for some time and haven't managed to. Until now.
"Things" that in another house might be called "Rules".

I've had rules in the back of my head for a while now.  A couple of months or so ago I read an article by a man who had brought up his son on his own (though sadly can't remember who he was or where I read it, sorry).  Anyway, he said that one of the secrets of his success (ahem) was that he had a small set of fixed rules which were never breakable*.

Now, if you'd asked me before I had the girls, I'd have said that you have to have rules and you have to be consistent.  In fact, if you asked me now, I'd still say that you have to have rules and you have to be consistent.  But the thing I can't decide on is what those rules should be. 

I know that they've got to be clear, I know they've got to be enforceable, and I know that they've got to be few.  You can't have too many rules, it just gets confusing.  But then I get stuck.  In fact, the only rule on which we are decided, agreed and live by ourselves is that the girls aren't allowed to hurt each other.  Hurting each other brings the wrath of  Mummy down upon them.   But even then the extent of the wrath of Mummy depends on all sorts of factors mostly relating to how thin Mummy's patience is wearing by that point...

But what else?  What rules should we have and how should we enforce them?  Is no toys in the kitchen a good rule?  Is it enforceable? And what about when the rules conflict?  If L bites A and then owns up, should I be cross because of the biting, or pleased because of the honesty?

I asked some friends about this, and they said that they had been told that the most important thing was to decide what was important to you, and then to live by it as well as imposing it on your children.  In other words, if you think the most important thing is that your children are polite, you must be polite. If you think they should be honest, ditto.... 

Which just adds another question - what about the times B and I conflict?  I'm tidy, B's not.  He's got endless patience, I'm not so hot at that. Where should our priorities lie?

Is this just another impossible parenting question, or can we achieve a set of simple, enforceable rules?  And if so, how?

*One of these was that when Daddy said  "It's time to go" it was time to go. No questions. No answering. No procrastination.  

To which I say, in tones of disbelief  "How?"  Whatever he's got. I want some of it.


  1. Well if you figure this out, please let me know. We live my a set or rules or a moral code, which I have just finnished doing a draft post about for next week - great minds and all that.

    But I do struggle to find out and keep what is imporatant to me. I dont mind toys anywhere in the house, in moderation as long as they are put away again before the end of the day, we dont go to bed with toys out, unless it is a fab railway set up or scalatrix and thenh that is because and and MadDad want to have a play!

    I am a great believer in behaviour breeds beaviour, therefore, I hope to teach the boys acceptable behaviour by demonstrating it to them, but this parenting lark it isnt easy.

  2. I have one rule in this house that is unbreakable and that is treat others as you would have them treat you.
    The other stuff? I think their personalities will decide. I'm the one with infinite patience and my daughter has picked that up; my son not so much!
    But it's part of who they are. There are some things you just can't make rules for I guess

  3. That's HARD! If you find an answer, you should write a book and get stinking rich.

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  5. Its the same in my house. To be honest though the rules have changed as the children have grown older. The unbreakable rules are mostly the safety ones. Good luck A and I struggle with agreeing on things also.

  6. I'm still muddling my way through but we do have some rules and mostly because I'm the primary parent Mr has to just suck up my rules and keep with it

    I've accepted mess during the day but tidy up at the end of it, otherwise we'd just fight about tidying up the whole time. And there are some things which are an absolute no - no touching the fires (or the coal) or pressing buttons on things

  7. Must admit my 'rules' went out of the window a long time ago. Oops!
    we stick to manners, not getting down from the dinner table until everyone is finished etc..I try not to say anything that is hard to stick to or I have to back down on. Good luck. Hope you are settling in. xx

  8. Mad Mummy - Great minds indeed! I agree with you about living it, but what's getting me is probably just the normal toddler behaviour, the "no", or the snatching, or the selfishness. None of which they see (hopefully!) from us, but all of which they do...

    Tara - Interesting. That's really my rule too. But I don't think it works with a three-year-old. How old were yours before they actually understood it? I seem to be spending significantly too much of my time at the moment going "L! Leave your sister ALONE!"

    Mwa - will keep thinking! (and playing the lottery!)

    Sara - i think that's it though. They do change as the children change, and maybe I am just expecting too much of mine, who are, after all, still very little. Hmmm.

    Muddling Along - that's interesting too. I've got another post in my head about the division of labour, but when it comes to discipline it's both of us. As for the buttons, my babies have just discovered power sockets. They've never heard me shout so loud...

    Chic Mama - It's the backing down and the sticking that are key isn't it? That's my problem anyway. Which is why I'd like to actually think it out in advance, but maybe that's just too optimistic.


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