How to be respectful of your family

Teaching teens respect takes effort, but you’ll be so glad you invested the time once you witness the results.

“Sometimes I just lock myself in the bathroom and hide from my son. I can’t take the disrespect anymore” —Mom of a teen

Sadly, this is not an unusual sentiment. Parents feel overwhelmed by their teens' entitled, disrespectful attitude and feel at a loss for how to reverse it. Newsflash: It is possible to learn how to respect parents as a teenager—and it’s possible for your teen to put those lessons to use. While it takes work, you’ll be oh-so glad you took the time to teach respect to your teenager.

If we think that they will mature and grow out of the disrespectful phase, we are so wrong. Respect is learned, relearned and practiced. Teaching teens respect for adults is also teaching them to respect themselves. When teens learn to speak with kindness to authority, they will learn to interact with all kinds of people. Future bosses, heads of college admissions, professors, future spouses. We are training our kids to be successful contributors to society, and respecting authority is a huge part of that. If your teen is lashing out at you, causing you to want to lock yourself in a room, or you just feel overwhelmed by their behavior, things need to change ASAP for your emotional health and theirs. It will only get worse if they aren’t held accountable for their behavior. So what can you do about it? (P.S. Here’s the right way to praise and compliment your teen.)

Teaching Teens Respect and Kindness

Teenagers want few things more than respect, but they don’t always realize that they too need to give it, too. As parents, we often walk on eggshells when it comes to communicating with our teens. We don’t want to offend them or their friends; we don’t understand the social media culture they live in; and we don’t know the right terms or phrases to use to make sure they feel respected. They sense that insecurity and often take advantage of it.

Yes, we need to respect our kids but also expect respect in return. Kids need a parent first, then a friend. They need someone to be the authority and set the standard of how to treat people. Learning respect at home hopefully will carry over to how they treat teachers, coaches, and others. (Can you guess what we’ve selected as the most important thing we can teach our daughters?)

We are constantly teaching peer-to-peer kindness—which we need to continue—but what about vertical kindness? I’ll admit when I was a teen my mom would say “Kacee, you do all this good. You volunteer, you help your friends, but you’re not very kind to me.” Not showing kindness to our parents is not a new thing for teens, but it seems to have gotten worse. We often feel intimidated to have those corrective conversations with our kids. I hear all the time from other parents: “I don’t want my daughter to be mad at me.”

Learning how to respect your siblings and your parents is an essential part of growing up with your family. From very early on we are taught to listen to our parents, play nice with our siblings, and to try and get along. Respect within a family is easy to understand in this sense, but since I moved out to college, I don’t really live a traditional family life anymore. I only see my family for the holidays and chat with them via texts and phone calls, so for most of the year, it is just me. I still always feel the full support of my family no matter the distance or frequency of our visits, but I have been learning to see myself, in a small way, as a family of my own—a family of one. Maybe this sounds lonely, but I don’t mean it that way. Seeing myself in this independent light has actually taught me a lot about myself and having respect for the family.

It’s easy when you are on your own to say that sitting down for a good meal isn’t important, that you don’t need to take the time to catch up on things, or that you need to evaluate how you are doing mentally, physically, spiritually, socially, etc. Recently, I have been thinking about the things that I did with my family and about the things that I want to do with a family of my own one day. I have realized, why shouldn’t I start doing those things now? This time that I am spending learning how to respect myself as an individual family will be immensely helpful to me when I do one day have a husband and children—a little family of my own.

I am really looking forward to the day when I have a family of my own, and I know it will be important once I have this family to carry over the same values of respecting each other and respecting yourself that I grew up with and that I continue to cultivate now. I figure, the more time I spend learning how to respect myself, the easier it will be to one day respect my husband and our children and the easier it will be for me to ask for respect from them.
So whether you are living with you family in a traditional sense, are newly married and it is just you and your husband, or you are a family of one like me, it is important to remember to have respect for that family and make sure that it is growing stronger daily.

How to be respectful of your family

There are other relevant skills in this job, like knowing how to listen to our children, learning how to put them in their place, establishing boundaries, and creating a feeling of belonging that will bring them security, which is what family is.

All this is also important for adults too. Keep reading to see how to build strong family relationships.

“At the end of the day a good family should be able to make everything forgettable.”

-Mark V. Olsen-

Saying “I Love You,” The Foundation of Family Relationships

In a family, everyone has their own needs, qualities and abilities. That’s why we don’t all express our affection in the same way.

We also don’t necessarily need people to say it back to us in the same way, though it’s important to communicate it.

Sometimes it’s hard for us to give constructive criticism. Not just with adults, but also with children, and all we do is point out what they’ve done wrong.

The problem is that something that might go unnoticed by us could have big consequences for the self-esteem of others, especially for children. That’s one way of weakening family relationships.

That’s why it’s important to use communication to express what we love about them. How important they are to us and the family. This will fill them up with love and improve their self-esteem.

We Feed Strong Family Relationships With Empathy and Effort

Empathy is a great ally when there are conflicts at home. Trying to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes won’t end the argument immediately. But, it will help us understand them a little bit better.

Plus, it will make it easier for us to explain that we understand their opinion, even if we don’t share their point of view. That’s how we’ll help reach agreements that benefit everyone.

Putting ourselves in other people’s shoes will make another fundamental aspect of strengthening family relationships easier: valuing other people’s effort.

Recognition will function as reinforcement to enable behaviors that we need for good family relationships. Of course, change takes time.

Chores are Good for Family Relationships

In the home, every family member has their obligations. It’s important that these be clearly established and consistent. But, how and when can we make little ones responsible for chores at home? We’ll have to keep in mind their age, and ask them to do things in line with their abilities.

Starting at one year of age, you can ask them to do simple tasks that will increase their self-esteem. They can start picking up their toys, help us take something from one place to another, or clean something they dirtied.

And telling them how much they’re helping us and how important they are to the family will make them feel good.

Along with chores, we also have to respect rights in the home. Even when it’s hard, we need to respect each other if we want family relationships that will last for the long haul.

“Family is the only thing that adapts to our needs.”

-Paul McCartney-

We shouldn’t respect the rights of one family member more than others. Finding a balance in this aspect will prevent unnecessary arguments and misunderstandings. And it will also prevent negative emotions that undermine family relationships.

Images courtesy of Nathaniel Tetteh, Annie Spratt and David Straight.

Unlike many songs about love and relationships, this song accurately identifies that respect is necessary for relationships to thrive. Mutual respect is one of the cornerstones of all successful relationships. The loss of mutual respect can destroy a marriage quickly, or more often, lead to a painful, stressful and unhappy life for a couple. While this notion appears commonsensical, there is also a significant body of research (by John Gottman, Ph.D. and his colleagues) that strongly supports this view.

Our approach to working with couples emphasizes the importance of mutual respect. While mutual respect is not sufficient (spouses or partners can treat each other respectfully, but still struggle with major issues) it is necessary for a relationship to thrive. Without mutual respect couples are unlikely to be able to solve problems. Thus, our therapists work with couples to re-establish respect and then address other issues that the couple may be struggling with.

Respect: What do we mean by mutual respect?

Mutual respect is a very simple concept. It means that you treat your spouse or partner in a thoughtful and courteous way. It means that you avoid treating each other in rude and disrespectful ways, e.g., you do not engage in name calling, and do not insult or demean your spouse or partner. It also means that you do not talk sarcastically to, or ignore or avoid your partner. Finally, mutual respect means that you view the opinions, wishes and values of your partner as worthy of serious consideration. While this sounds very simple it takes a consistent effort to treat your spouse or partner respectfully. Respect is not just the absence negative behavior, but the presence of positive behaviors. Specifically, if you are treating your spouse or partner respectfully you are doing things such as: considering his//her opinion; consulting with your partner before making decisions that affect your partner; taking an active interest in your spouse’s or partner’s life (work, daily activities and interests); compromising and negotiating with your partner about important issues that affect both of you and your family. While this list is far from exhaustive it captures the essence of a respectful marriage or relationship.

Establishing and Losing Respect

How is respect established in a marriage or relationship? Respect is established when you consistently: consider and value the feelings and opinions of your partner; talk to and treat your partner in ways that you would want to be treated; and compromise and negotiate with your partner.

How is respect lost in a marriage? Respect can slowly erode due to day to day stresses and strains. If you or your partner is stressed or struggling with your own issues, you may become irritable and negative, and vent your frustrations on your partner. This can set off a vicious cycle in which partners are increasingly negative and disrespectful to each other. Similarly, an inability to resolve or manage conflicts or differences can lead to anger and frustration, which if expressed in negative and blaming ways can start the same cycle of negative interactions and result in the loss of respect. These are only a few of the ways that respect can evaporate in a marriage or relationship.

Supporting and Maintaining Respect

Sustaining respect during the course of a relationship takes effort. We are all human, and if someone begins to treat us negatively, inconsiderately, and disrespectfully, we often tend to respond in kind. This pattern of mutual disrespect feeds on itself. The more one partner is rude and inconsiderate, the more likely it is the other spouse or partner will behave in similar ways. Thus, disrespect can grow until most interactions are characterized by sarcastic, inconsiderate, blaming, critical, and demeaning behavior. However, the lack of respect is not always so obvious. Spouses or partners can show their disrespect in more subtle but equally corrosive ways, e.g., ignoring the spouse or partner, responding with indifference to their partner.

Principles for Re-establishing Respect

Once a couple has fallen into a pattern of treating each other disrespectfully it is often difficult to change. If both spouses or partners are angry and hostile towards each other a standoff may ensue, with neither partner willing to change his/her behavior until the other changes. Similarly, if one person makes a good faith effort to change things, this effort may go unnoticed or may even be rebuffed. To help couples re-establish respect we draw on two basic principles: (1) only work on changing your own behavior; and (2) do not police your partner’s behavior. Specifically, we work with you to recognize that given the level of tension in your relationship it is unlikely that either you or your partner can effectively influence each other. Instead, we encourage both of you to focus on your own behavior: follow the golden rule, and treat your partner as you would like to be treated. In addition, we focus with you on working to only police your own behavior. The temptation to correct your partner’s behavior may be great, but it is unlikely to work, at this stage. Once a greater level of respect has been established couples can then begin to work on how they can communicate more effectively, make requests, solve problems, and accept differences.

Creating a Respectful Relationship

Much of the initial phase of therapy is focused on helping couples re-establish or create a more respectful relationship. Once a more respectful environment or atmosphere is established therapy can begin to focus on helping you and your partner identify difficult issues, and find ways to talk about these issues directly without triggering angry and disrespectful behaviors. Creating a respectful relationship is essential if you are going to be able to effectively address difficult issues and differences. Thus, establishing mutual respect is a critical step in therapy.

Tolerating and Appreciating Differences

The final phase of therapy often involves working with couples to recognize, accept and appreciate differences. It is almost a cliché among therapists that people marry or become involved with people who are different than them and then spend the rest of their marriage or relationship trying to change their partner. Part of establishing and maintaining a respectful relationship is learning to accept differences. Partners need to accept the ways in which their spouse or partner is different, whether this involves values, aspirations, or temperament. Tolerating and accepting (and even appreciating ) how your spouse or partner is different from you is a key part in maintaining a respectful relationship. Helping couples achieve this tolerance can involve working with couples on recognizing each other’s strengths and understanding that differences do not have to threaten a relationship, but can in fact strengthen it.

How to be respectful of your family

We live in a world that teaches us to wander. Many of us have trouble starting something and sticking to it. We get bored easily, and we are constantly moving on to the next thing.

My husband is a car guy. He loves talking about cars, driving cars, fixing cars, buying cars, you name it. It used to drive me a little bit nuts in the beginning because cars are not my thing. But over the years, I’ve learned to talk about them (or at least listen to all the neat stuff he has in his brain to tell me about them or whatever he wants to show me that he’s working on). If you’re lucky enough to marry a car guy and have the guts to sit through endless car conversations, one thing they will teach you is this: You don’t need to throw a car out. You can always restore or re-build it, and if you have the patience, make it even better than it was before! And let me tell you, boy, does he have the patience! He’s working on a 1981 Mustang Coupe right now, and it’s beautiful. He puts time and effort into it whenever he can to make sure it runs perfectly.

And I know that when he reads this (because he always reads my work), he will agree with me when I say that he also puts time and effort into making sure I feel loved, beautiful, safe, secure, and respected by him as his wife.

As a car guy, he understands the value of putting time and effort into the things that matter to him. He understands the importance of paying attention to detail and that if even one small thing is off, it can ruin the way his car runs. The same goes for his marriage: he pays attention to my feelings and checks in on me. I’m sure there are times he doesn’t want to because he knows I can be a tsunami of emotions, but he asks me if I’m okay because my husband knows that my feelings are a vital part of who I am as a person and an essential part of our relationship as husband and wife.

I mentioned before that we live in a world that teaches us to wonder, but throughout all these car talks over the years, my husband has taught me the value of starting something and sticking to it—the value of working on something instead of wandering away from it and onto the next thing. And if we’re honest with ourselves, when things get tough and the rubber hits the road: we are all prone to wander, just like the old hymn says. And wandering with your eyes, thoughts, and heart in a marriage are all swift ways to show disrespect to your wife without even realizing it. Let me show you.

Scenario One: Wandering Eyes

Your wife has had multiple kids. She doesn’t feel that confident in her own skin, but you always tell her she’s the most beautiful woman in the world, and you’re so glad her tummy housed all your little babies. But you’re out for a walk on the beach one sunny afternoon, and your eyes start wandering towards every other woman around. Your wife pretends she doesn’t notice even though she does, and it wrecks her a little bit inside each time it happens.

As a woman, I feel most respected when I know my husband has eyes for me. One of the ways I feel most respected by him is when he makes sure that his wife is the main attraction regardless of who else is around.

Scenario Two: Wandering Thoughts

Your wife is telling you a story that is incredibly important to her. You’re not all that interested in what she’s pouring her heart out about, so you respond and, look at her, nod on occasion and also occasionally check your phone. Your wife pretends she doesn’t notice because she’s used to you not giving her your full attention, so she continues with her story. But she does, and it wrecks her a little bit inside each time it happens.

As a wife, I feel most respected by my husband when I know he’s giving me his full attention, just like he did when we were dating and he was trying to impress me. I know that he gives his full attention to other things throughout the day and that there is no reason his thoughts should wander when I’m trying to have a conversation with him.

Scenario Three: Wandering Heart

Your wife has been telling you that she feels like you’re married to your job instead of her. Your job always comes first. As a result, she feels like she is in second place. You reason that you have to make a certain amount of money so that when work calls, even if you’re on a date or she needs you, you’re out the door. She knows you love her: but she feels that you love your job, your title, your promotions, and the applause you get at work more than you love her.

As a wife, I feel most respected when I know my husband’s heart is in the right place. I know that when he’s burning the candle at both ends trying to make more and more money, his heart is wandering away from the kids and me. Just as I feel disrespected when work interrupts our time as a family, so do my kids. We always make more money, but our moments as a young family are precious and priceless.

Oftentimes, as husband and wife, neither of us is going out of our way to be disrespectful. But it happens. Just as our hearts are prone to wander from the good that God has for our lives and fall back into old habits and old ways of thinking, so are our hearts prone to wander in marriage.

One of the worst possible ways our thoughts can wander in marriage is when we are in a rough spot with our partner, and we start thinking that maybe things would be better with someone else. I used to tell my husband when we were newly married and would argue over our differences: “If I can’t make things right with you, I can’t make them right with anyone.” The next person will have their flaws and quirks. Just like I do.

If eyes, thoughts, and heart have been wandering from your wife: I can guarantee you she’s noticed, even if you haven’t. I can also guarantee that she feels disrespected as your wife and may even be acting disrespectfully towards you because of your wandering. She may be resentful of you because of your wandering. She may be ready to give up because of your wandering. Because when you married her, you promised to love and cherish her all the days of her life – not anything else. Do what you promised to do in the beginning. Love and cherish her, put her first, and she will feel like the most respected woman in the world.

How to be respectful of your family

Respect is defined as “a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important” and also as “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way.” While these two definitions may seem to be two ways of saying the same thing, I feel that the first definition keys in on respect being given to those who have earned it by their physical or mental abilities, while the second one focuses more on respect being due to people simply because of their dignity as a human being.

Many people find the first definition more palatable and withhold their respect for someone unless they admire them or see something that is good valuable and important in them. Respect within the family, and indeed within a Christian Culture, should be more closely identified with the second definition in which people are viewed as important and should be treated in an appropriate way. By virtue of each of us being created in the image and likeness of God, we have an inherent dignity and since we are adopted sons and daughters of the Almighty, we have an inherent greatness that is not diminished by what we can or cannot do. Respect is nothing something that is earned, it is something that should be given out of love for one another. The child who throws temper-tantrums and the elderly who have lost touch with reality should be shown the same respect as we show to the able minded and physically capable person whom we interact with professionally on a daily basis. The difference between the two is that when we show respect to the young or the elderly we are being selfless and cannot expect much in return for our kindness.

Within the Context of the Family

There is a lot of talk about respect these days; people demand it, and I would propose that far less give it or perhaps even know what it is. When you think of respect within your family you probably think about how you desire it from your teenagers. Respect is an essential ingredient of a holy family, and therefore each family member must seek to understand it, expect it, and give it. This can only be done by example. Words like the ones I am writing may help communicate the essence of respect to our children, but will fall on deaf ears if we do not provide a good example of respect. Showing respect is difficult, especially within our own home, which is where our children will learn the most about what it means to be respectful. We can be perfectly respectful to our boss (if we work outside the home), to our pastor, the policeman, our co-workers, our friends, but our children will not often see these interactions. What our children will see is how we treat our spouse, our elderly family members and most importantly how we treat them.

Here are a couple of tips and tricks that may help you as you seek to be a consistent example of respect within your home. Dr. Ray Guardeni provides some great advice when he suggests that parents compare the way they speak to their children to the way they speak to their boss at work. His point is, if you wouldn’t talk to your boss, pastor or someone you hold in high esteem that way, they you shouldn’t talk to your children that way either. The problem is that often we treat the people that we are closest to with less respect primarily because we know that it would take quite a bit for them to stop loving us. Often we use that unconditional love as an opportunity for us to take out our frustrations on them and it has to stop.

Another helpful trick is to remember that we, too, have many flaws that we have tried to repair for many years and yet still struggle. Reflecting on this, we should give our children a little leeway as they struggle with keeping their room clean, doing their homework and chores without being asked, being nice to their siblings and speaking respectfully to their parents. It may take a while for them to get each of these important habits fully formed and they may fall often on their path towards full maturity. Our children are a great tool that God has given us to help us on our path to holiness. They will help us be more patient, more forgiving, more humble and more respectful. Some of us require more work in some of these areas, so don’t be surprised if you pray for patience and have a child that helps you work on that virtue several times a day. In a word, be humble and hopefully this increase in humility will help us to be a little less harsh and more respectful when helping our children to become mature adults.

Go Forth and Teach Respect

Remember our goal, we are seeking to form a holy family and the foundation of our family is love and mutual respect. It is not enough to demand respect from our children, we must also give it to them freely. Our children are born as empty slates and through their experiences in life, they become a fully formed human being, an adult. During these formative years our children encounter many people from whom they will learn what is right and wrong, how to treat each other and how to love one another. It was not enough for God to write a book for us to learn these things, He chose to send us His only Son to personally teach us these things, and Jesus chose to continue to teach the world with human beings through his Church. Holy men and women who have gone before us and some of whom are still alive today continue to inspire us to love and respect one another in a truly profound, godly manner. In a way that many of us may not fathom, we as parents have the ability to be this profound teacher of our children by our good example, but the opposite also holds true. Have you ever met a disrespectful child and wondered where he or she learned to be so disrespectful? Then you met that child’s parents and you knew beyond the shadow of a doubt where it came from.

How to be respectful of your familyWith perseverance, respect can be taught within your family and not only will you enjoy respect within your home, but you will also be a light to those who come into contact with members of your family and are treated respectfully. Our world needs more respect and watching the nightly news and talk shows is not where people will learn it, in fact, they will many times be instructed in how to be disrespectful. Our world needs examples of respect for all human life, those unborn, those living and those nearing the end of their lives. The work we do within our families has a profound effect on the world in which we live, St. Josemaria Escriva said, “ these world crises are crises of saints“. St. John Paul II that “The future of the world and the Church passes through the family” Familiaris Consortio #75. This task of creating an atmosphere of respect within our family will reach further than the walls of our homes, it will go out into our neighborhoods, our Churches, our cities and throughout our country. The family is mighty and has the ability to change the world.

Set Reasonable Expectations for Yourself and Your Family

Element number eight of the Twelve Disciplinary Elements widens the scope of discipline outside of you and your child. Your child doesn’t exist in a vacuum, he lives in your family, probably with you.

Since you want to be the reasonable, respectful, well-behaved parent of a reasonable, respectful, well-behaved child, it makes sense that you want to have a reasonable, respectful, well-behaved family. A reasonable, respectful, well-behaved family is a group of people who care about each other, who are allies for each other, who listen to each other, who tend to live with each other, and who are doing the best they can. (Keep in mind that we’re not talking perfect here. Keeping your expectations reasonable is vital!)

To have a family that respects each other, it needs to start with you. You’re the adult here, remember? I know too many people who think that a family is a good place to kick back, away from the world. “I don’t have to be on my best behavior with them, they’re just my family.” Yes, you can relax, but remember that this is the place where you should be the most considerate, thoughtful, and kind. These are the people you love, remember? Show them a little respect.

Words to Parent By

A family is a grouping of people—usually but not always biologically or legally related—who may live together, and who love and rely on each other.

It’s a Good Idea!

Every family has its own expectations about things like manners, cleanliness, and acceptable language. As a reasonable, respectful parent, teach your child the “when in Rome” principle—follow the customs of the natives and respect other families’ values and rules. It’s just a question of respect.

What’s Normal for You?

Every family has a different expectation of “normal” behavior. When I as a kid, I used to love to go over to other people’s houses for dinner because every house was so different. At Rowena’s house, we said grace before we ate. At Alison’s house, we had to clean up—really well—after we ate. At Tilly’s house, we ate chicken with gravy, homemade pie, and occasionally had a food fight. At Milo’s house, her parents had wine with dinner (and she thought it was odd that at my house we drank water and ate mung-bean-and-brown-rice casseroles and huge bowls of green salad).

All the rules were different, too. My parents liked a quiet house, and the radio was usually on low playing classical music. At Tilly’s house we could watch TV, at my house we didn’t have one. And so it went. The rules and customs you establish for your household and family may be completely different from what’s happening at the Joneses down the block. There’s no one “normal,” but it’s helpful to have your family’s “normal” explicitly defined so your child understands the behavior expectations.

Who Is Your Family?

Families come in all sizes and configurations. Your family might include biologically related members, nonbiologically related members, people who live together, and people who don’t, of all ages and genders. The definition of your family depends on you—if you say you’re a family, you are. I believe it’s the love that matters, not the shape of that love.

Families are more than a configuration of people who love each other. Families have a family identity, shared values, shared rules of behavior—shared expectations.

Some families are very clear about what these expectations are, but in most families, the expectations are just sorta understood. But are they? Problems arise when some family members assume that others know and believe in the values and rules. Those others, who’ve never really had the expectations clearly explained, may be utterly clueless. When expectations aren’t clearly talked about, there’s also no way to work out differences in opinion and values. And then they fester. Ugly, dark family dynamics begin rising like a northeaster, and it’s time to take cover.

Far better to spend a little time explicitly building your family identity and defining your family’s behavior expectations. To do that, it helps to make your family’s values and your family’s rules explicit.

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the The Verywell Mind Podcast.

Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC.

If you’re like most parents, you may struggle to list your household rules off the top of your head. Although you know what behavior is acceptable (and what isn’t), labeling your expectations may be a little tricky. That’s why it’s important to create a written list of household rules.

With a list of rules, everyone in the family becomes clear about your expectations. Rules also help kids feel safe and secure. When your rules are clear, you’ll be less likely to get into power struggles. Your child’s attempts to say, “But Mom, I didn’t know!” won’t be effective when you remind him of the list of rules.

Tips for Creating Household Rules

Household rules should include the rules that everyone in the house is expected to follow, including parents. So don't include, “Bedtime is at 7 p.m.,” unless you also plan to go to bed at that time. Your household rules should also be specific to your family's needs and values.

You may also find that you need to revise your list from time to time. Work together as a family to problem-solve specific issues. For example, if you’re noticing that several family members aren’t picking up after themselves, talk about it and see what you can do to better enforce this rule. As your children grow and mature the behaviors you’ll want to address will shift as well. Add new rules when necessary.

Sample List of Household Rules

A lengthy list of rules could become too complicated and confusing, so keep your list short and simple. Here is a sample list of household rules.

Treat People and Property With Respect

These rules may include:

  • Ask permission to borrow other people’s belongings.
  • Do not hurt anyone’s body (no hitting, pushing, or kicking).
  • Do not hurt anyone’s feelings (no yelling, put-downs, or name-calling).

Implement an immediate consequence if this rule gets broken. Time-out or loss of privileges can help kids learn to make better choices. This is a good rule for parents as well as kids as you need to model appropriate behavior and anger control.

Knock on Closed Doors Before Entering

Teach kids about privacy by establishing a rule about knocking on closed doors before entering. This can help reinforce the idea that you should respect other people's space.

Pick up After Yourself

Explain what it means to pick up after yourself. Tell your child to put her dishes in the dishwasher when she's done eating. Or explain that you expect your children to pick up their toys before they get out new toys. This rule enhances household safety and cleanliness and develops good habits for when your children will go on to live independently.

Electronics Curfew

Many families establish rules about electronics. While some families limit screen time to a couple of hours per day, others set rules about what time electronics need to be turned off. Setting a curfew for electronics before bedtime can help develop good sleep hygiene for both children and parents which enables you to get a better night's sleep for health.

Make Amends When You Hurt Someone

Teach kids to take responsibility for their behavior by creating a rule about how to respond if they’ve hurt someone. Sometimes an apology may be enough and at other times, you may need to institute restitution as a consequence.

Tell the Truth

Stressing the importance of honesty will only be effective if you role model the behavior. If you tell your kids to always tell the truth, but claim your 13-year-old is only 12 so you can get a lower-priced movie ticket, your words won’t be effective. Kids can’t tell the difference between “white lies” and other lies so if you’re going to stress the importance of honesty, show that you're honest.

Practice Good Dental and Body Hygiene

Washing hands, brushing teeth, and bathing must be done for good health. Establish these as a rule so your children develop good habits, and don't shirk them yourself.

Attend Family Meetings

Holding regularly scheduled family meetings can help you review the rules, talk about schedules, and make any changes as necessary. While some families may want to schedule a meeting once a week, other families may find that meeting once a month is plenty.