How Often Should House Policies Be Enforced?

By Erica Loop
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House rules don't just keep your day running smoothly or free your home from child-led chaos. Rules create limits for your child. This helps build self-regulation and control early, according to PBS's "The Whole Child" website. Enforce the house rules consistently, providing consequences every time your child breaks a rule. Doing so creates a level of predictability your child will grow to expect and respect.

Keeping Enforcement Consistent

Consistency is key when enforcing your house rules. Start your consistent practices from the beginning. When you enforce the house rules in the same way for the same offenses, children as young as 2 learn what they can and can't do, according to the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development. For example, if hitting you gets your 2-year-old a time-out, you need to always discipline this behavior with the same time-out. As your child gets older, the specific behavior and consequence may change, but the consistency shouldn't. It's likely that the hitting subsides as your child ages, but he may show you disrespect in other ways such as yelling at you or slamming a door in your face. While saying "time-out" every time your child disrespects you may not cut it with your teen, telling him to cool off in a tech- and TV-free space each time might.

Reviewing the Rules

Your house policies are likely to change as your child matures. Unwanted behaviors may go away as your child develops self-control or moves on to a new developmental stage. For example, your preschooler may stop constantly pulling her sister's hair as she moves into the grade school years, which means you have no reason to continue enforcing the rule. Even though you eliminate some rules as your children age, you create new house policies to enforce just as consistently as the old ones.

Using Natural Consequences

As your child gets older and begins to take on more responsibility for himself, shift some of your house rule enforcement to natural consequences. Natural consequences are the logical results that follow breaking a rule. For example, your middle schooler refuses to abide by your school-night bedtime rule. The natural consequence for staying up late is that he's tired the next day at school. To use this approach, your child must understand the connection between his action and the consequence. Tweens and teens are typically mature enough to understand natural consequences. The more you use this method, the less time you'll need to spend actively enforcing rules.

Dealing With Your Own Emotions

When emotions get heated, you may need to step away and give yourself some time out. Even though you should enforce your house policies on a consistent basis, you need to keep a level head. If your emotions are running high or you are too angry to act in the same manner that you expect from your child, wait to play the role of the enforcer. This doesn't mean you skip handing out the consequences once in a while. Instead, you may need to put a few minutes in between your child's action and the enforcement.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.