Teach your kids why rules are important, and then start following them.
Experts have said for many years that parents who set household rules and enforce them consistently are able to teach their children about structure, stability and responsibility, while exposing them to a stable and balanced environment. In a child custody dispute, it often becomes obvious which parent has invoked appropriate rules and applied them to day-to-day activities in the children’s lives.
Rules need not be militaristic, overly burdensome or unnecessarily regimented. They should be designed to teach children the importance of upholding their promises, keeping to deadlines, maintaining proper boundaries, respecting others’ property, taking turns and showing manners. By learning the importance of rules, children will eventually come to see them as a way to lead an organized, evenhanded and civil society, not just a personal burden on their rights.
Children often resist rules at the outset, but they tend to adopt them –or many of them — over time as they mature. A child who learns the importance of keeping to deadlines and being punctual may, for example, take issue with a non-custodial parent who habitually violates the court visitation order by returning him late to the custodial parent’s home.
Where two parents can work collaboratively to imbue their children with a respect for rules, the effect on the child’s conduct can be powerful. Indeed, there may also be significant improvements in the ability of the parents to collaborate on other matters involving the children.
A larger problem, of course, occurs when one parent leads a rule-based household, and another parent leads a carefree home with no rules, no responsibilities, no curfews, etc. Let me know if you’ve encountered this situation. We’ll take it up in a future blog.