TO DO: House Rules and Family Meetings

My family is a disorganized mess! For many years, this has worked for us. During their baby and toddler years, flexibility was absolute, especially having them all so close together, being less structured made more sense – as I was deadset on raising independent, free-thinking, personality-filled little individuals. I’ll let you know right now, I succeeded, maybe almost too well…

Now, as they’re all in school and their days are taking on more structure, it’s important that we as a family start introducing some structure. However, the concept is absolutely foreign to us. More foreign than the Chinese or Swiss. Structure is just something we’re not used to, or even really desire for ourselves, but moreso need for the sake of our family and their sanity (mostly my sanity)!

I’ve talked about a lot of these issues in past posts, including the still needed routine, the once-a-month cooking, and the desire to create a household management system. But really, it’s all about building a foundation.

I like to relate to a book I read by Iyanla Vanzant. When I was at the worst part of my depression, many moons ago, I was utterly obsessed with Oprah Winfrey. And everyday before Oprah, one of her regulars had a show called Starting Over (which I desperately wanted to be on) and this is how I came to know of Iyanla Vanzant. Anyways, in this book she looks at life like a house. You have your foundation, first floor and so on and each level represents different aspects of your life, like your values, beliefs, things you were taught, etc.

Well, as my homegirl Alanis Morisette says (we’re like this *crosses fingers*), “My foundation was rocked…” – and mine definitely is. And it’s beginning to crack. Okay, enough with the pop culture references!

What we need to do, as a family, is create some basic rules and some consequences for breaking those rules. I’m talking about foundational rules. For example, my kids have a very bad habit of blatantly disrespecting me, like when I tell them to do something, they’ll get right in my face and shout no and then will sit down and do whatever they want. While I deal with these situations, it seems to be completely ineffective and I think there are a few reasons why that is.

First of all, we don’t have a hard and fast disciplinary action. Often, it changes depending on mood and time of day and season of the sun – who knows why it changes for sure, but it does. One time, it will be get sent to their room, the next time it might be lectured or put in a time-out, other times, I’ll throw my hands up in the air and walk away speechless.

Second of all, we don’t have hard and fast rules. We are rather flexible parents and the rules can often change. For example here, one day Kaeidyn wasn’t allowed to walk to the store by herself and then one day she was. Originally, the rule was no friends on the walks with her, but then she ended up running into a bunch of them on the way home (there is a park between our house and the store), and now the rule is only on the way home. So, a lot of times, the rules are in constant flux.

All of these things would be easy to deal with, in my opinion, if we had some ground rules and a regular forum for us to discuss any changes – especially as the kids all get into pre-teen and teenagehood. Especially if I ever go back to work!… Ugh!

In a Perfect World…

First, as a family, we sit down and draft up these house rules. We say to each other, “this is what we want as a family, this is how we’re going to achieve it as a family, this is how we’re going to behave along the way, and this is what happens when we don’t” – basically, in short, a vision statement.

Then, we figure out a way to display it all nice for the family to see. This way we’re constantly reminded of the rules. We’re constantly reminded of what it is we want to achieve. I want it to be pretty but also functional for us.

Finally, every couple of months, we revisit the rules and the family vision statement and see if how we’re doing things is working and what, if anything needs to be changed.

Definitely something to work on… Anyone have any experience with this sort of thing?

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