Let’s be honest: getting kids to follow your rules is sometimes hard, if not impossible. That’s why I attended Polly Elly’s 7-part series called Parent School. This particular session got me thinking about my own rules for my kids, and I appreciated the examples and learnings shared throughout the session. Here’s what I learned.

Polly’s Short List of Family Rules:

  1. Refusal to participate 
  2. Deliberate breaking of a known rule
  3. Taunting, teasing, mocking, or intimidating another
  4. Mistreatment of self, people, or things
  5. Any form of physical violence

According to Polly, having a 5-minute family meeting is critical to go over these rules. How awful is it when a child asks a parent about a practice, and the response is: Because I said so. As a kid nowadays, it’s critical to draw clear lines and explain why the rules exist and what happens when and if we break them. It’s much more gratifying to them and allows them to connect with it and learn how to course-correct it in the future, which will involve much more explaining and repairing.

Now let’s dive into how Polly explained ways to implement these rules.

1) Keep the Morning Routine Simple

Polly says to keep it simple in the morning and only have a list of 3-4 things your kid needs to do before school. You can always help them with the rest. This might entail getting ready, brushing teeth and/or hair, packing their school bag, and eating a solid breakfast. Anything else could be considered bonus points for them that you can praise and reward later.

Another fun exercise Polly recommends is creating bases for each task so they can “run the bases” in the morning. Your kiddo can also feel empowered to do these bases in whatever order they choose to. And be sure to let them lead you around these bases and tell you what happens next. “I see you have your shoes on. Now, what base are you going to do next?” Polly says. This makes the mornings much more fun and less stressful when they are empowered to complete the tasks you set out for them to do. I now ask my kids in the morning: Did you hit a homerun? Nice work running through all those bases today.

2) Put an Immediate Halt to “Bully Behavior” 

It’s critical to create a safe environment for kids and draw a hard line on any bullying behavior in the family. Polly says the second she saw this in her own family, she’d stop whatever they were doing and say: “That is bully behavior and not who you are. You’ll have to find another way.” Hurting people or animals is quite simply not okay. 

For kids, it’s not about teaching perfection but teaching them to own why we are where we are. In social moments, you can teach them hand signals when struggling so they don’t act out. “Some items are necessary to enforce, such as when they react frustrated with you or your rules. It’s most important to teach them that it’s okay to be peaceful even when you are mad,” says Polly. Essentially, you’re teaching them to feel their feelings instead of acting out on them, which is when most bullying behavior occurs. And when it happens, go back and have them make a repair and plan for next time. Lastly, please have a safe space where they can talk and express themselves freely when upset. These steps will help ensure that bullying behavior immediately stops in your home. 

3) Be Consistent When a Family Rule Gets Broken

When completing a task like cleaning their room, freeze when someone isn’t pulling their weight. Every mess that gets made or broken gets put back together. When rules get broken, have consequences for their actions and be consistent. One easy way is a 10-minute chore “chip” or work time with you on the weekend. 

Regarding sharing, you can have a young child pick 5-7 things to label with fun colored tape, but the rest is for everyone. Have rules that are easy for them to understand and maintain. In this example of sharing, the power is that everything in our house is for everyone, but you can pick a few items that are just special to you.

4) Successfully Teaching Your Kids the Rhythm of Life

Edit the family rules to your liking and have a family meeting to discuss the plan with your kids going forward.  “We work, then we play,” says Polly. Take breaks and teach them the rhythm of life. There can’t be consequences for bad moods or feelings, though. Polly says: “You can be in a bad mood, but you can’t be mean.” My kids now repeat this line to me when I’m in a bad mood, causing me to reflect on how I take out my attitude on my kids. 

Lastly, tell them it takes years to be a kind person who tells the truth, significantly when that truth might change what another person thinks about them. Life is hard, but with these simple rules at home — you can teach them that it can also be a lot of fun once you find the right rhythm. 

To learn more about Polly Elly’s Lab Method and Parent School, visit her website.