Every family needs to have rules. If a family has some rules that are non-negotiable, and have logical consequences, the whole family will be more relaxed. These rules should be explained clearly, and repeated when appropriate. Big brother is told when he is angry to use his words, and his little sister can rest assured her big brother will not hit her. When Dad puts matches in a safe place, he reminds Jennifer not to play with them. On her way out the door, Mom reminds Junior of the rules, so she knows her teenager won’t invite his friends over when she is not home.
Parents also need to provide children with flexible rules, so they can gradually develop self-discipline. A flexible rule gives a child basic principles to follow while allowing for some personal decision making. An example of a flexible rule might be: “The hour after lunch is quiet time.” The child can make their own decisions about which books to read, what toys to play with, or how loudly to play music. A natural consequence of breaking the quiet time rule would be extending the quiet time so that an hour’s rest is achieved. If a child continues to use poor judgment, then more parental input is needed. Until the child is more mature, books might be the only option for quiet time
Another rule, such as “No fighting,” allows a parent to stop a fight between siblings. If children are gently reminded of the rule, they may learn to examine their own behavior and settle their differences without needing parental intervention.
Try writing down the most important rules for your family. No one can ever say they “didn’t know” or “I forgot” as easily if it is written down. Several specific, inflexible rules are required, and a few broad, flexible ones.. Always keep the list to a minimum, and keep the family involved. Over time there will be some updates and changes. When a rule is broken, there will never be a question of knowing right from wrong or whether there would be a penalty to pay, because everyone will clearly know the rules.