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Discipline Differences: Household Rules

Before I arrived on the scene (I’m the youngest of five), my parents had an ironclad rule: Saturday mornings were chore time. My brothers were all given assignments. When they finished a chore, they called for inspection and, when they passed, got a new job to complete. Sound fair?

Not if you’re the brother who got right to work while siblings mingled work with play. “It’s not fair,” Jack finally complained. “They goof off and I end up doing more.” My parents changed the rules: Each brother got a card with their morning’s list of chores; freedom started when the whole list was done.

My point? Children respond to rules in different ways, and actually need different rules to be at their best. So how do you keep things fair? Create rules that allow flexibility. My brothers (and me, when I was old enough) had freedom to complete our chores any time we wanted on Saturday. We just couldn’t head out to play until they were done. It proved much more effective than monitoring each of us!

Consider similar ironclad rules that still allow flexibility for other areas:

– Discuss with each child their optimal homework schedule. Some want to do it right after school while others thrive on right after dinner. As long as they aren’t letting homework bump into bedtime, helping them discover what works for them prepares them for real life, like the college years.

– Screen time. We lumped television and movies, computer, and video games together with an overall time limit. These were all in public spaces so it was easy enough for us to know whether they were mindful of the limits.

– Kitchen clean-up. Whoever made dinner got out of clean-up. Our kids knew the tasks: food put-away, dishwasher-loading, hand-washing. They divvied those up without our having to set schedules. And, it wasn’t long before they sometimes opted to cook the meals, an added bonus for me, even if it meant I needed to pitch in afterward.

Where can you be firm yet flexible? Children often shine when the rules clearly let them be at their best.

By Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is