Why Do I Have To?

Establishing Family Values
All families have to develop limits and rules that cover safety, respect, and routines and habits. It can be hard for parents to know which rules are age-appropriate, and in accord with their own family values, and within accepted community and cultural norms. The wide range of other families’ rules and limits often adds to parents’ uncertainty. To develop reasonable and achievable rules and limits, it helps to discuss with your spouse what values you both want to teach your child. These important conversations can be enjoyable, thoughtful, and insightful. Discussions of family values are generally low-conflict and tend to build the parenting partnership. Share what characteristics you’d like to see in your child by kindergarten, as a teen, even as an adult. Are you and your spouse modeling these traits? If not, are you willing to work on them? Talk about your goals for yourselves and your children in such areas as relating to others, making decisions, dealing with conflict, handling difficult emotions, working hard to succeed at a task, taking care of your bodies, handling money, using time, and caring for possessions.

Parents need to learn reasonable expectations for their child at each age. You can do this by reading about child development; talking to teachers or your pediatrician; chatting with parents casually or at parenting classes; observing other children at the playground, on play dates, and at preschool; and taking care of other children. Knowing what to expect makes it easier to determine appropriate rules for your child’s age. It’s valuable to use phrases with your young child such as “It’s Mommy’s and Daddy’s job to teach you everything that a ____ -year-old needs to know.” This concept helps reinforce that rule-making is a parent’s job. Children should also be given reasons for new or changed rules: “We need to get dressed quickly today because…” And it’s important to praise children for cooperating: “You picked up your toys so fast – that was great,” or “That was so helpful.” Parents need to determine effective methods for getting cooperation, such as making requests sound like fun. And the child needs to understand the consequences of not cooperating. Both will be addressed in detail later in this guide book.

Perfecting Parenting Press 2015