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How to Establish Family Rules

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There is so much you, the parent, can do to build a relationship with your child. But first we must show our kids we mean business in building a relationship with them.

If you’re wondering how to be a confident and cool parent, you must first start by establishing a few family rules.

Establishing Family Rules

Decide your bottom-line non-negotiables. I mean bottom-line. I encourage you to use moral and legal guidelines. For Gene and me, our non-negotiables are an extension of our house family rules. Our kids know them:

  • no illegal behavior
  • no drinking alcohol—depends on your house rules, whether you and/or your spouse drinks and your guidelines. Will your child honor those or would it be better to not have alcohol in the house to avoid conflict?
  • no sharing a bedroom with a person of opposite gender (unless married)
  • no off-color or swear words, including taking God’s name in vain
  • no friends who do not abide by our house rules
  • no undermining parental authority with other siblings

With your family rules established, you are ready to build a healthy relationship with your child. As we’ll discuss, there is much you can do to grow this relationship, but how far it grows depends on your child.

Romans 12:18 says,

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Relationships work like a tandem bike—best when two people are pedaling together.

Building the Bridge

The bridge to your child might need many repairs, or you may have burned it to the ground and need to start from the ground up when rebuilding your relationship. Whatever degree of bridge building your relationship requires, the situation is not hopeless. Remember the words of Gabriel to Mary:

For with God nothing will be impossible. – Luke 1:37

As you build the bridge of relationship to your child, seek God’s guidance and ask for His mighty working in your child, yourself, and your relationship. He is faithful, and nothing is impossible with God.

Don’t Take the Bait

Our kids know how to push our buttons like no one else does, and we return the favor. The next time you communicate with your child, overlook the little things that bug you and that easily escalate into an argument.

My daughter, Katie’s artistic personality means she is naturally messy. When she comes in the house for a weekend visit, she dumps everything just inside the door. Her large purse, computer case, at least one basket of laundry, and various art materials lay at the end of the breakfast bar in the busiest traffic area of the house. When I lightheartedly ask her to help me move her things, she does so eagerly. But a few years ago that would have caused a minor eruption. So I grumbled to myself and moved her things to her room, where she could be as messy as she wanted.

Personal responsibility is a big deal to me, but life and God now teach her those lessons. I don’t want to cut the number or length of her visits short because I make a big deal about her bad habit.

[ Katie’s Thoughts ]

This may be the strong-willed child coming out in me, but I’ve noticed that usually when my mom stops nagging, I stop complaining. I remember when I noticed that she wouldn’t complain about my stuff being everywhere, so I decided to pick it up. Once it wasn’t an issue, I didn’t need to make it one. Making issues out of things that don’t matter can confuse both parties involved.

The Cool You

Anytime my kids have thought me to be cool has been accidental on my part! Their evaluation of my coolness is as fickle as their teen hormones. Being the truly cool parent is being the parent who doesn’t engage in the drama and traps set for him by his child. The child knows the cool parent loves him and where his parent’s reasonable boundaries are.

The child may not agree, but he has a measure of respect for the boundaries because he knows his parent is acting out of love and respect for him. The cool parent and his child have come to a place of agreeing to disagree.

Excerpted with permission from Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With by Brenda Garrison, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2013.

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Your Turn

When looking to build a healthy relationship with your child, it’s crucial to come up with family rules you will stick to. What are you family rules? Leave a comment on our blog. We’d love to hear from you!