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When my son was a baby I used to think that those long sleepless nights were the most exhausting thing about motherhood. I never imagined that toddlerhood will bring something that was even more exhausting: power struggles.
Even though they were physically tiring as the lack of sleep, they were emotionally draining.
Constantly setting limits and explaining the rules over and over again seemed to take so much time and effort! I just wanted to have a peaceful home and enjoy my child instead of spending so much energy in unnecessary power struggles.
So I decided to take a step back and focus on finding a strategy to help me prevent power struggles. I knew that the secret was setting rules in a way that my son will be willing to follow them. And I was determined to do my best to make this happen!
In time I found some great ways to set rules and get my son to follow them in a calm and positive manner.
They really made a difference for me! If you are looking for easy and gentle solutions for setting rules for kids, I hope that these tips will help you too.
5 easy tips for setting rules that kids will want to follow
1. Don’t set too many rules
It might seem strange to start with this tip but it has been a game changer for us!
As parents of young kids, we need to set rules to keep them safe and healthy. But sometimes we risk to become over-controlling and set more rules than necessary.
When kids have too many interdictions they get frustrated and start ignoring them.
Keeping the number of rules and interdictions to only the ones that are really necessary prevents many unnecessary power struggles.
How to implement this: Make a list of the rules that are important to you. Focus on those rules and try to be flexible when it comes to other things were interdictions are not really necessary.
When it comes to safety rules for young children try to be proactive by child-proofing the environment. This will make things easier and less stressful for you and the child will be able to experience more freedom to explore the house.
2. Offer explanations for all the rules
When kids understand the reason behind our requests they are more likely to listen to us.
I also explained the rules to my son ever since he was a toddler. And it helped a lot!
We agreed on 3 different types of rules:
- rules that keep us safe (like not touching the oven, wearing the helmet when riding a bike, or not crossing the street without an adult)
- rules that keep us healthy (like washing hands, brushing teeth, or making healthy eating choices)
- important rules that help us show kindness and respect (like not hitting, or no using mean words).
Every time when I talk to my son without about a rule I explain the reasons behind it. When he is breaking a rule I remind him why that rule is important and what we talked about it. This makes things easier for both of us.
3. Make a list of the most important rules and display it in the house
Making this list together with your child is a playful way to encourage them to follow the rules. Some time ago we created a list of family rules and it is such a great reminder of the things that are really important for us.
Also, creating a positive behavior poster was very helpful for encouraging my son to follow the rules. It also allowed me to initiate discussions about the rules anytime I noticed that he was having a hard time following them.
What I also noticed it’s the power of offering a good example. We always allow our son to let us know if he thinks that we are breaking one of the family rules. If he is right we apologize and we try to make things right. This has a positive impact on him and shows him that the rules are truly important and apply to everyone.
4. Be consistent and set limits in a gentle way
When kids don’t follow rules it’s easy to get frustrated or upset. Being firm when setting a limit is important but being gentle is as important.
When parents set limits in a gentle and peaceful way they rebuild the connection with the kids and help them improve their behavior.
If you would like to find an easy way to set limits without using time-outs or punishments, here is a 3-step strategy that we successfully used ever since my son was a toddler. If you trying setting limits in a gentle way and this didn’t seem to work, here are some reasons why this might happen.
5. Discuss the rules on a regular basis when both you and the child are calm
Talking about the rules after a situation when the child didn’t follow them is helpful because it allows you to transform that moment into a learning opportunity.
But it’s even more helpful to talk about the rules when both you and the child are in a calm state of mind. This will make the discussion even more impactful.
One easy way to do this is setting regular family meetings and include a discussion about the rules in each weekly meeting. You can either review the list of family rules or just discuss one of them – the one that seems to be harder to follow and that brings the most power struggles.
Hearing the child’s opinion about the rules will also allow you to adjust them when possible to make the child feel more in control. As the child grows you will be able to let go of some of the rules or adjust them. This discussions will make things easier for both you and the child and will make your relationship stronger.
Setting rules for kids and making sure that they follow them is not always easy. But if you are consistent and keep a positive attitude towards this process you will see great results and you’ll enjoy a more peaceful home!
If you want to discover more tips on how to get kids to listen and how to implement positive discipline to teach them to behave better, check out our list of parenting resources: The best solutions that will help you overcome everyday parenting struggles in a positive way.
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