Family Rules Everyone Can Follow

Rules, rules, rules. Your kids don’t like them, but what they don’t realize is they need them! Kids need structure. They need to know what’s expected and what will happen if those expectations aren't met. Their world is full of rules—rules at school, at their future jobs and out in society. As their parents, you are helping them develop into responsible law-abiding citizens if they understand a few basic, fair rules at home. Here are some suggestions for a list of family house rules—and yes, they are for everyone, even Mom and Dad!


  1. Respect one another. This rule covers quite a bit, such as the importance of using kind words. No insulting or putting each other down. Use manners and be kind. Also, family members should respect each other’s property, personal space and privacy. This helps your son remember he cannot borrow his older brother’s toy without asking. And if he is given permission, he should take care of it and return it. Kids like having their own space and time to themselves. This should be respected as well.
  2. A family is a team. This means you have each other’s backs. You help each other out. Your kids go to their siblings’ baseball games and piano recitals. They root each other on. Your older kids help hold their younger siblings’ hands while crossing the street. They know they need to set a good example. This rule also encompasses the difference between ratting a sibling out just to see him get into trouble and telling Mom and Dad something important they need to know. A family works together to keep one another safe.
  3. Everyone pitches in. Mom’s not the maid. Put your dirty laundry in the hamper, shoes away and homework back into backpacks, and help with the dishes. Clean up your toys after playing. And help Mom and Dad rake the leaves and shovel snow. If you make a mess, clean it up. It’s that simple. No one plays or goes out with friends until the chores are done.
  4. Tell the truth. This one is often tougher for Mom and Dad than it is for kids. It’s so important that your kids know from a very early age that they need to tell the truth, even if it’s scary—even if it means they might get into trouble. Because if Mom and Dad know the truth, and have all of the information, they are more equipped to keep the kid safe. Mom and Dad need to promise the kids they, too, will be truthful, even if it’s scary!
  5. Safety first. Make your family’s safety rules applicable to the type of family you have and ages of your kids. Don’t run down the stairs. Wear seat belts. No texting and driving. Don’t hang stuff from the ceiling fan and turn it on. If you have a kindergartener, obviously this category of rules will evolve and change as she grows up and has more freedom.
  6. Go to work every day and do your best. Whether your “job” is going to fifth grade every day or going to an office from 8:00 to 5:00, every family member has work to do. Everyone shows up ready, prepared, homework done. And everyone tries hard.
  7. Everyone has a say. Mom and Dad are the bosses, but everyone has a say in the house rules. If your kids want something changed like having a later curfew, let them know they can come talk to you and explain their case. You, of course, have the final say, but it’s important that kids know they will be heard. This also applies to family decisions like what movie to watch or where to get takeout. If you do a fair rotation where everyone gets a chance to decide, your kids feel like their voices matter.
  8. Commit to family time. Whatever time you set aside to reconnect as a family, whether it be Sundays after church or Friday movie nights, make sure everyone is present, physically and mentally. No friends over. Put phones down. Just enjoy each other. Play a board game, look at old photo albums or go out and get ice cream. Ask your kids about their day, their friends, the toughest math problem on yesterday’s test. Just talk to each other and connect.

It’s a good idea to brainstorm and establish your family rules together. Make it a family activity, and once you’ve decided the best rules for your family, write them down—a simple list on notebook paper or a painted mural. Either way, write them down and hang them up so you can all be reminded of the guidelines that will help your family. Create a family motto to write across the top. Ours is “Johnsons aren't quitters!” Make sure everyone knows what consequences occur if they don’t follow the rules—and remember to follow through!


Quiz: True or False?

  1. Mom and Dad should make the rules and print them out, without their kids’ having a say. (FALSE)
  2. The family list of rules is only applicable to the kids. (FALSE)
  3. Your list of rules may evolve over time as your kids get older. (TRUE)
  4. The world is full of rules, and it’s important that kids learn to respect them at home. (TRUE)
  5. Kids should only have to do chores if they are going to get paid. (FALSE)
  6. Having a rule about respect encompasses many things, such a speaking kindly, respecting privacy and not taking another person’s property without asking. (TRUE)
  7. Teaching your kids that they have a “job” to do every day, starting at a young age, is beneficial. (TRUE)
  8. Rules about safety aren't necessary, as they will change when kids get older. (FALSE)

            Olathe mom Karen Johnson has three children, ages 6, 4 and 2. She writes at

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