Explaining the purpose of rules helps your child understand them.

How to Make Children Understand Rules

by Shelley Frost

Setting and enforcing rules comes with the territory, but you'll have fewer headaches if your child fully understands the expectations. Your household rules may seem like a random list, so understanding exactly why you put the rules in place and what you expect helps your child better obey the guidelines. Following through with consequences and employing consistency and patience also make it easier for your child to understand and follow the rules

1 Clarify the rules with your parenting partner before you try to enforce them with your child. Discuss any differences in opinion on which rules are important, to keep your kids safe and maintain positive family relationships.

2 Write the rules in simple, clear terms for reference. Draw pictures to represent each rule for younger children. For example, if one rule is to clean up after yourself, include a picture of a child picking up toys as a visual reminder.

3 Read through the rules with your child. Explain why you set each rule. Say, "This rule says you need to ask permission before you go outside to play. We want to make sure you are safe, so we need to know where you are at all times. If we don't know that you're outside, we can't make sure that you're safe."

4 Offer examples of each rule so your child understands what you mean, especially for general rules such as showing respect to each other. You might say, "Showing respect means we talk to each other with kind words. We don't make fun of one another for sharing ideas. We don't ruin another person's projects. If your brother is building a block tower, you can show him respect by not knocking it down and not making fun of how he built it."

5 Practice using the rules with role playing. Pretend you are a child so you can show how you expect your child to behave. You can also act out yourself breaking the rule so your child gets to call you out on it. For example, if the rule is to clear your plate after meals, set up your child's kitchen set and play dishes to role play. Practice clearing the play plates, or get up from the table and leave the play plates there.

6 Point out your child's behavior when she follows one of the rules. This reinforces what you mean in the household rules. Say, "I like the way you asked me to help you cut up the apple. One of our rules is that you don't touch sharp knives. You kept yourself safe by letting me use the knife."

7 Remind your child about the rule if she doesn't follow them. Real-life examples help her clarify her understanding of what you expect. Say, "One of our rules is to respect everyone's property. You took your brother's favorite book without asking. Now a page is ripped. Showing respect means you need to ask before you borrow something. You also need to take care of the borrowed item while you have it."

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