Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Do you have rules in your family?
Do they sound a little like this?
Don’t jump on the bed
Don’t do this…
Don’t do that…
In my family we’ve gone through different incarnations of family rules. We started out with a set that looked a little like the ones above. It was, no hurting people or animals, using polite words… there were a couple of other things, and then the last one was to have fun. We wrote them on a list and put them on the fridge. Even though our eldest, at that stage, was pre reading age, he knew those rules off the top of his head and was able to point to the fridge in reference of the rules.
Did those rules help family life? Not really, not one iota. They were just something to pull out like a stick to say, “you haven’t been following the rules”. Are the rules effective? Do they advise you what to do? When we say don’t hit, don’t hurt, what do we end up thinking about, hitting and hurting obviously. It’s like saying, don’t think about the elephant in the corner of the room. It’s impossible to not think of it, it’s there!!
When we take something away, when we say that you “can’t” do something, we don’t put something in place to say this is what you CAN do. Children find it far easier to accept something when we tell them what they can do, in fact adults do too. So there’s no point in saying, you can’t hit, it leaves a vacuum. Ok, so I can’t hit, what do I do instead? You’ve taken away what I thought was my response to a situation, but help, what can I do instead!
This is the problem with rules. They’re inflexible, they tell us what we can’t do, and they don’t help to create a climate of trust. They can’t be used for all situations. And if we have a list of rules for a toddler, pre-reading child, they are very hard for them to get to grips with. In short, they’re a bit limiting
What can we do instead?
In the last two years my family has adopted something a little different. It was inspired in part by seeing these pics come up frequently on Facebook posts:
I love both of these images. In fact, I have the second one as a decal, which I haven’t put up yet. But, I noticed there were still a few problems with these. Chiefly being that they were quite wordy and hard for little kids to remember.
So that’s when I hit on something else, something far simpler, something that would last forever, and that my kids could easily remember.
We are… the:
That was it. Simple right. There was not much I couldn’t fit into that. Hitting someone, well, that’s not gentle touch (hugging) and it certainly wouldn’t help someone to be happy would it, not to mention not helping the situation. However there were a couple of things that I had failed to add to it. My son, being the wordsmith that he is added two more words to it.
There. It was perfect. We don’t jump up and down on the bed, (most of the time) because it’s not healthy to do so (dirty feet on the covers and you run the danger of hurting yourself). We try to really *hear* people when they speak to us. Not just their words, but we really try to hear what they are saying too.
In fact in the two years we’ve been using these words, I haven’t come up with a situation that I can’t use them in. Quite simply they cover everything.
And recently, that’s when it hit me. They aren’t rules at all. These are family values. Values that can be as old as time. These are the things that we VALUE in our house. These are the things we WANT in our house. We don’t want to harp on about the things we don’t want – that’s what rules do. We want to celebrate the VALUES of our house.
What do you think are the values in your house? Do you think you are celebrating them?