How to set family rules: Tips for Singapore parents

Get tips for setting family rules depending on the ages and stages of your children.

family rules

Setting proper family rules is a good way to build a strong home.

Making rules, guidelines and expectations based on love are the surest way to build a home on a firm foundation. But what sort of rules and guidelines should you set for your family?

Well, it’s probably safe to say that rules and guidelines that help your family grow as a unit and as individuals are the best way to go. Also, the rules you set for your family should be based on the age of your children, the particulars of your schedules, and your morals and belief system.

To make things easier for you, here are some suggestions when it comes to making family rules:

Households with toddlers     

Households with toddlers will likely need to have simple family rules that primarily focus on safety and discipline.

1. Bedtime rules and expectations should be simple, clear-cut and consistent.

2. Lifelong eating habits are usually established during toddlerhood. Rules about throwing food, eating a balanced diet and too much sugar should be set by example.

3. Expectations regarding listening should be clear and easily understood by your toddler. For example: Periods of ‘time out’ should be 1 minute for every year of your child’s age.

4. You should also be consistent. If you’re too tired to discipline today, there is no reason you should expect your toddler to understand why he/she is being disciplined for doing something today but wasn’t disciplined for doing the same thing yesterday.

Households with preschoolers 

Different family rules will be needed for different situations, e.g. for when you have preschoolers.

Different family rules will be needed for different situations, e.g. for when you have preschoolers.

Preschoolers need rules and expectations that are consistent with what they’re familiar with up to this point, as well as a few additions, like:

1. Give them responsibility. Preschoolers are ready to be assigned simple household chores such as helping to set the table, folding laundry and picking up their toys.

2. Watch their way with words. Preschoolers are famous for taking new words out for a test drive.

It is at this point in time that you need to be ready to set and enforce rules regarding acceptable and unacceptable language.

Do you want to prohibit the words ‘shut up’ and ‘hate’? How important are ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to you?

3. Disobedience is most likely going to rear its ugly head during this time.

When toddlers do just the opposite of what you ask and keep going back to what you say ‘no’ to time after time, they are simply testing boundaries. They don’t have the reasoning skills to out and out defy you, no matter how smart you know they are.

It’s different though, for preschoolers. Again, the key is consistency, plus some self-control on your part.

Let’s face it — you can’t react to something your preschooler does one time and then let the same misdeed go completely unnoticed the next time. The best thing to do then is to have a game plan, and decide in advance how you want to handle situations.

4. Your child’s social skills are going to be developing during the preschool years, especially if you work outside the home.

Because the bulk of your child’s personality and attitudes will be formed during these years, it is important that you mirror and teach values like humility, compassion, kindness, generosity and honesty. These should be part and parcel of your set of family rules.

Households with primary school-aged children

Make sure that your family rules take into account your child’s school life as well.

As your child enters school, she is being exposed to all sorts of new ideas and people. The different values and personalities of her classmates, plus her classmates’ parents’ parenting styles, will give her reason to question you, push her boundaries and maybe even become more bonded to you out of appreciation for the love and security you bring to her life.

Also, the primary school-aged child has a sincere desire to please you. As long as you are receptive and recognize this, she will go out of her way to do so.

Because of this, you have a golden opportunity to build a relationship with your child through love and respect, communication and appreciation for one another. Your children will listen to you more now than they will at any other time in their lives.

Build on your existing family rules as your child grows up, especially when she starts going to school.

Build on your existing family rules as your child grows up, especially when she starts going to school.

Make the most of it by building on expectations and family rules that you already have in place, and taking them to the next age-appropriate level.

1. Your child will need firm rules as to what is and isn’t acceptable with regards to how they treat their friends and even those in their class whom they don’t consider as friends.

2. Your child will begin to explore the concepts of truth and lying. It is important that a) you always tell the truth, and b) never fail to let your child pay the consequences for being untruthful.

3. Rules about schoolwork should be set now too. Developing strong study habits now will help your child throughout her school career.

While it is important to get homework done early in the evening, consider giving your child some downtime after she gets home from a full day at school. As little as thirty minutes for a snack and time to visit with you and unwind is usually all that is necessary.

Here’s a concrete example of how to get your children to be more responsible for their studies:

Should your children forget to bring their homework to school, give them one or two ‘grace passes’ a year, i.e. times when you bring their homework to school for them. Once their ‘passes’ have all been used up, they need to pay the consequences in order to develop a sense of responsibility.

Households with children in secondary school onwards

Once you have teens and older kids in your family, it's time to re-evaluate and, if needed, reset the family rules.

Once you have teens and older kids in your family, it’s time to re-evaluate and, if needed, reset the family rules.

By the time your children reach their adolescent and teen years, you’ll be facing the need to set family rules regarding computer use, the use of cell phones and other gadgets, outings and sleepovers with friends, dating, driving, etc. — it makes you dizzy just thinking about it all, doesn’t it?

Don’t panic. If your home has been one where guidelines, expectations and family rules have been clear from the beginning, you shouldn’t have too difficult a time with your older children.

Of course, you can be sure they will test you and push their limits, but this doesn’t make them problem teens or juvenile delinquents. It just means they want to grow and mature.

Ironically, now, more than ever, is the time they need your help the most. They may not act like it, but they do, so don’t hesitate to talk to them about your family rules, and why they are important.

1. Place time limits on cellphone usage. Don’t allow phones or any other gadgets during mealtimes to encourage family conversations.

2. Require phones to be turned in to you at a pre-determined time each evening. Don’t let teens take their phones to their rooms with them at night.

3. Place blocks and parental controls with passwords on all computers and gadgets in the house. This not only keeps your children from going where they shouldn’t go, but protects them from predators.

Set limits on computer time and the use of other gadgets.

Set limits on computer time and the use of other gadgets. Place parental controls and make sure you know your children’s passwords too.

4. Enforce curfews. You can make exceptions for special events, but otherwise make hard and fast rules, and stick to them.

5. While it is important to trust your tween and teen, you have the responsibility of speaking with your child’s friend’s parents as to where they will be when your child is invited to their home.

It is not unreasonable for you to want to know where your child is, who they are with and who is supervising or chaperoning them at all times. If your child is reluctant or evasive about these things, you probably have cause for concern.

6. Discussing family rules and expectations for unchartered territory (dating, etc.) with your child will help make your home run more smoothly. By allowing them to have some responsibility in deciding what these rules and expectations should be, they will be more apt to comply.

Remember, though, that you are the parent and should have the final word.

Family rules are meant to build your family

Family rules are there to help strengthen your family.

Family rules are there to help strengthen your family.

The goal in setting rules and expectations for your home is not to rule with an iron fist. The goal is for everyone — including you — to know upfront what is expected of family members — to work together in love and respect, and to encourage one another to be loving, responsible and caring people.

What are your thoughts about setting family rules? Share them with us by leaving a comment!