Every household has its rules. But I am a firm believer that one of the jobs of being a good parent is knowing when to break your own rules. The old saying “rules were meant to be broken” is especially true when it comes to parenting.
Knowing when to break the rules is the tricky part. You must use discretion when breaking these rules because if you break them too often, they are useless when they are in force. Let parental intuition and common sense guide your rule-breaking opportunities.
Rules to Break
Rule #1: Don’t Spoil Your Kids
It is never good to give your child everything he wants because you want him to learn how to work for and appreciate privileges and possessions. But there are occasions when a little spoiling communicates your love in an extravagant way. Buy that toy he really wants, take them to Disneyworld, let her get a pedicure. However, be sure you don’t break this rule too often, or it will become standard operating procedure, rather than a special treat.
Rule #2 Kids Need Rest
Of course it is important for kids to get plenty of sleep, but sometimes you just have to throw bedtime out the window and enjoy the moment. We did this quite often when our kids were growing up, but it was saved for special occasions, like when family was visiting or when we went to the football games Dad was coaching. Yes, your kids may be tired and grumpy the next day, but that’s what rest and nap times are for.
Rule #3 The Same Rules Apply to Everyone
This one was a hard sell in our family because the “that’s not fair” argument always hit us when we chose to handle circumstances differently with our kids. But not every child is the same; not every child needs the same response to disobedience, not every child needs the same bedtime or the same guidelines. It’s hard to explain to your kids the rationale on this one, but don’t let that keep you from treating your kids as individuals. You don’t have to be a Nazi-parent.
Rule #4 Stay Away from Junk Food
In our house, the rule of thumb is that eating healthy is a lifestyle, not a 21 day challenge or a 6 month diet. If your family is following that guideline, then a trip to MacDonalds every now and then, or a soda once in a while is not going to do much harm. “Junk food” needs to be a special treat, not a weekly or daily habit.
Rule #5 Don’t Let TV or Video Games Babysit Your Kids
When my oldest was a preschooler, I’d turn on Mickey Mouse Club for a half hour and let her sit and watch while I got something productive done. There is a time and a place for letting TV or video games babysit your kids; use it sparingly and wisely. Use it when you need a break or when you need to get something done. And for heaven’s sake, be sure you filter the shows they watch and the games they play.
Rule #6 Don’t Let Your Kids See You Sweat
If you are hung up on the idea that you must always be calm, cool, and collected and have all the right answers for your kids, you will only be adding stress to your life. It’s okay for your child to see you flustered, to watch you maneuver through your mistakes, to see that you are feeling weak or helpless. Again, this is a rule to be broken, not a habit-forming lifestyle. If you are always flustered, making mistakes and feeling helpless, your child’s sense of security may be damaged. But as you face frustrating situations or heartbreak, it’s okay for your kids to see you are human. How else will they learn to deal with hardship if they don’t see how you work through it?
Rule #7 Stay Away from Certain Topics of Conversation
When I was growing up, there were certain things we didn’t talk about as a family. But in raising our own kids, my husband and I decided to break that rule. We raised our children with the understanding that there was no topic that was closed for discussion. Whether it was a question about our parenting strategy, an adult’s bad behavior, or sex, we told them we would listen to anything they had to say or any questions they wanted to ask. The result is that now–with our three kids in their 20s–we have a very close family where communication flows freely.
What are the rules that should NOT be broken? In our family, the rules that we did not let slide were ones that focused on treating others with compassion and respect. Stick to your guns on those because people always matter.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents.You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.