When you have a job, you get feedback on you’re doing. When you’re a parent, you don’t get any feedback. You’re still performing a job but you don’t get reviewed on how it’s going. You set out to do your best and you hope you are but you don’t really know if you’re doing it right or what areas you may need to improve because no one is saying, “Hey, good job on that tough decision.” Or “Wow, your family rules are really working.” You don’t know if you’ve made the right decision to raise your kids a certain way until years later and even then you’re not sure. Today I want to share some side benefits to three time tested family rules that I didn’t expect.
Three Time Tested Family Rules
1. No screen time during the school week
No screen time during the week includes computer games, TV shows, movies, or DVDs. Our goal here was to let our kids entertain themselves, learn how to relax without a screen, and have fewer distractions when it came time for homework. As our kids have gotten older and their devices are more for communication, we’ve tried to find a balance between in-person talking and texting. We still struggle with this balance but our family takes a break from technology on Sundays (which is a more recent family rule). The no screen time during the week rule worked out really well when our kids were younger.
What I didn’t expect with this rule and what I have truly appreciated is – the “not asking.” After you get through the first week or two of kids asking about watching TV or playing electronic games, the bugging goes away. I guess they just figure it’s not going to get them anywhere so they give up. Our kids spent more time playing outside and reading books because of this rule. It also made long car rides or airplane trips easier because they were used to entertaining themselves.
Our exceptions to this rule routinely include holiday TV specials and professional football. I’m married to a die-hard Washington Redskins football fan and when his beloved team is on network TV, we adjust the rabbit ears and settle in to cheer for our team. Go ‘skins!
2. No buying electronics for our kids
For young kids, it seems like electronics are more of a distraction than anything else, so we decided to not contribute toward this by not buying gadgets for our kids. The electronic items our kids bought for themselves with their own money, were well taken care of and appreciated. They were also creative with their spending and bought items used or checked computer games out from the library for free.
What I didn’t expect with this rule was how much money this would save in the long run. We’re not buying and re-buying electronics or upgrading gadgets or cell phones because our kids don’t expect us to.
3. Kids learn how to cook
When our kids started helping us in the kitchen when they were younger, by measuring dry goods, tearing lettuce, or stirring pots, it wasn’t really helping and it was more effort for the cook. Having young chefs in the kitchen does help make them become more comfortable with food preparation and techniques but it can take longer to prepare a meal with your assistants “helping” you.
As our kids have gotten older, this cooking know-how has evolved into a weekly dinner cooking assignment. The cooking dinner each week began when they were in the 6th grade or around age 11, soon to be 12. It started out as lunch making on Saturdays and then you “graduated” to weekly dinners. This is an absolute joy for me. Both of our kids have a nice repertoire of meals they can prepare and are comfortable reading or adapting recipes. They also both know how to clean as they go while cooking and how to (mostly!) clean-up the kitchen after a meal.
What I didn’t expect with this rule was the appreciation and thankfulness that comes when my husband or I make dinner. Since our kids know what goes into putting a meal together, timing it so everything is done around the same time (hopefully!), and cleaning up after, they are appreciative when someone else does it.
What I’ve learned with establishing family rules is that it’s less important about what the rules actually are and more about the dialogue that goes with the making, bending, and breaking of the rules. The conversations we’ve had as parents and as a family are what have made our family closer and stronger because we have ongoing discussions about the things we value.
What are your family rules that have been successful? What do you struggle with?
Go Gingham related links:
More about kids and cooking can be found here
Do kids really need cell phones? I’m still not sure – read more about it here.
Social networking and parents behaving badly can be found here
Technology free Sundays – a New Year’s resolution that just kept going!
10 thoughts on “Three Time Tested Family Rules”
I really like the ideas in this post. I wish I’d done more to help my kids learn about cooking when they were younger (but I’m discovering that my own relationship with food and food preparation has much to do with that). Screens are something it feels we are constantly revisiting. Our current approach is outlined here, in our Screen Time Manifesto: http://www.thissortaoldlife.com/2011/10/18/screen-time-manifesto/
It’s not perfect, and our kids are still on screens more than we’d like, but it’s better than it used to be.
Thanks Rita! Great points in your post and it is true – when parents are tired it easier (and quieter) to plug kids in to a screen. I constantly remind myself that easier for me isn’t always best for my kids. Well, except when it comes to house cleaning and laundry…with kids doing those chores it is easier for me and better for them 🙂
I think the big take away is the revisiting of this topic that we as parents need to do. Good job!
Hi Sara, ours include helping out with small chores, cleaning up after play and yes, now that our daughter is about to start formal school, we intend on a no-screen time rule as well.
I love your no buying digital entertainment rule!
Thanks Prerna! These have really worked for us and it seems implementing rules when kids are younger is best.
Sara, when the boys were 3 and 5, they seemed to be always fighting. I created a bedtime ritual called Special Bros, where each boy HAD to come up with something special the other had done that day. Unexpected result: they got along much better, with less competition, and even thank me regularly now (they’re in their 20s) for that ritual that made them realized they were each appreciated by the other. Glory be.
That’s a great story and an excellent solution to your bed time routines. I like the sense of honor and appreciation you instilled in them. Well done.
I completely agree with everything you say. I also have to say that this form of ‘intentional parenting’ requires considerably more parental time and effort than the conventional method but in my humble opinion, is worth it in the long run-
As usual Rebecca, you and I are on the same page about this. It does take more time, effort, and thought. Thank you.
I love this post, Sara! I absolutely agree and find that getting back to basic rules makes our home so much more pleasant. Your rules make sense and are easily followed. Here’s some much deserved feedback – you have done a great job being a parent!!!!
Thanks again, Annie! I know you’re rules are very similar to these. Natural consequences in a loving environment can really make a difference in family life.
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