The home is a place where a child should begin to learn what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is unacceptable. Having and enforcing rules about how your child behaves at home provide the basis for his behavior throughout life. As your child grows, you can add new rules that build upon other rules to give your child a good foundation to become a productive citizen.
Keep It Age-Appropriate
A younger child should have very basic rules that are easy to remember and follow. An older child can have more complex rules. It is important to consider your child's age and maturity level when you are making rules for the home. For example, a young child should learn that forks don't belong in the electrical socket. An older child may need a rule about getting homework done before getting on the computer or watching television.
Get the Priorities Straight
Rules that deal with safety issues should be the most important rules in your home. While your child coloring on the wall isn't a good behavior, it won't seem that important if you see her run into the street in front of a car. When you prioritize the rules you give your child, you teach her that all rules are meant to be followed but that some are non-negotiable. You are also helping her learn to prioritize.
Keep It Consistent
The rules you that you decide your child needs to follow at home should be consistent. A child thrives on routines, so knowing the house rules can help him to feel more secure. You must expect your child to follow the rules all the time, and if you have more than one child, the rules must be the same for all the children. For example, don't let one child chat with friends online during dinner if you won't let all of your children do that. Additionally, follow the rules you set for your children since you are a role model. If you don't allow your children to yell, for example, you shouldn't yell.
Part of raising your child to be a productive adult is to help her learn that consequences are a result of not following the rules. It isn't enough to simply punish your child when she does something wrong. Instead, explain to her why it is wrong and then discipline her so that she can learn from her mistake. For example, if she throws a toy, explain that she could have hurt someone with the toy or broken the toy. Once you do that, follow through with the appropriate punishment. If the punishment for throwing toys is timeout, place her in timeout. Be sure to reward her when she successfully follows the rules, as most children want to please their parents and will continue to do things that get them praise.