Earning Respect – A Line In The Sand

A wise man once said, “What is fun without the rules?”

Yep, I’m using Gru’s words of wisdom here. And it’s a fitting tribute, he was a foster dad after all!

While I firmly believe there’s a fine line between in making rules to teach and grow and making rules to become the Overlord of All Things in the Home, there is a place for rules in all of our homes!

In my home, we really don’t have a lot of hard-and-fast rules, but we have a few:

  1. No Running Inside. – This was instituted at our previous house because there simply wasn’t enough space to run inside without running into something or someone and risking injury, but we kept it in our current home which is three times as large since we now have stairs. Plus this is a good rule period. When we aren’t home, we are often at church or another person’s home where there are older people who are often unstable on their feet. There’s no reason to be running around them and risking them falling and getting hurt either.
  2. Respect one another. This goes for their space while playing, their things, etc. It’s a huge thing that this starts at play and carries over to sleep, homework, etc. You want it, give it!
  3. Listen to/follow instructions at all times. While this is the last of our actual rules, we do, from time to time give directions to our children and let them know what we expect in each situation. I’ll go into why we chose to go this route rather than more rules in a bit.

Our rules are simple, but we are strict on our children following these rules. When they don’t, they find out how well they like the corner, they loose the privilege to go places/do things when we are planning a fun outing, and/or they see an increase in their chores. In the children old enough to understands, we’ve only had one so far (and he’s still fairly new) that hasn’t understood how we thing, work, and function in our family.

That Opened Ended Rule

Now you might have noticed that #3 is fairly open ended. It allows us the option of changing things up, moment-by-moment/kid-by-kid.

Why? Well it’s simple. Not every three-year-old conforms to the example of my daughter. Some are ahead of her curve, others are behind her curve and I can’t expect them to do what I expect her to do, that wouldn’t be fair. We have to parent the child, not our home.

For example, I can send my daughter up to change from clothes to PJs and 99/100 times she will go and change without and question, any issue. But we have a child in our care right now who isn’t anywhere near her level, even though he’s actually a couple of months older than she is. We’ve taught her and pushed her to grow, while he hasn’t had the same direction and expectations in his life.

If we sent him to do the same things she is capable of, he’d never get anything done because he doesn’t know the first step in the process yet, but if we changed her routine to match him, we’d actually be hurting her growth and causing her to regress. Neither option is fair, neither option is good parenting.

So we find their ability, take a step forward and draw a line in the sand. This isn’t a line of “here no further” this is a line of “this is your goal! This is where I want to see you be able to grow to next. For my daughter, he next step is to learn to do her own hair, properly bathe herself and remember to brush her teeth twice a day without us telling her. For this young man, I simply want to be able to have him changing his clothes without being reminded where to find them in his dresser.

And throughout our home, throughout our children’s days we do this over and over. When we go to the park we set the guidelines based on the park, the day, and how many adults are going. If it’s just me, everyone stays on Playground A, if there’s two of us, everyone stays within the boundaries of these two playground’s AstroTurf, and so on.

If our children understand that we have to be flexible with the guidelines due to the differences in the day, circumstances, etc. Then we have less tantrums when those guidelines change.

The Actual Line

Where the line in our sand is drawn is this. Our children quickly come to understand that once we set the guidelines for this activity or that, we won’t waver. Once we’ve spoken what needs to happen for us to enjoy an outing, activity, etc., then we’ll stick to those guidelines and they will as well.

Oh we’ve had them test us from time to time. This child will step on off the AstroTurf here, that child will try to dart to another playground there, but they all know the consequences of crossing the line is that they will have a time out, or loose the privilege of joining in the rest of that activity.

And they all respect what we ask of them because they know where the line is! They all are growing to respect us because they know we do our best to be fair in with each child and situation.