Do Your Children Know the Rules? Try a Rules Poster By Jean Illsley Clarke

TRY A RULES POSTER                                                      (Click here to download a free PDF copy of this blog)

Learning what the rules are, who makes them, and how to follow them is a childhood-long task.  From the time children are very little, it helps to have the house rules posted with pictures that the children drew or cut and pasted.

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Having rules posted helps parents remember to keep the rules few and simple. It also helps children learn to think and to be responsible. When Adam breaks a rule the parent can take him to the poster and ask, “What does our poster say about hitting?” The scenario may go something like this. (click here for related stories: Do You Have Rules for Your Children?  &  A Few Simple Rules)

“I dunno.”

“I think you do. Look at the picture.” If this is a child who bolts, the parent holds the child’s wrist, ready to tighten the grip if the child tries to take off.

“No hitting.”

“Right. No hitting. But you just hit Dylan. So what could you do with your hand the next time your hand wants to hit?”

“He started it.”

“We’ll get to him later. So what could you do with your hand beside hitting?”

“I dunno.”

“Where could you put your hand so it wouldn’t hit?”

“In my pocket?”

“That would work. Let’s see you do that.” Child puts hands in pockets.

“Good. Now, if you didn’t have pockets, what could you do?”

“Put my hands behind my back?”

“Good idea. Let’s see you do that.” Child puts his hands behind his back.

“That works. Now, what else could you do?”

“I could hold my ears?”

“I bet you could.” Parent smiles appreciatively.  “Let’s see you do that.” Child holds his ears.

“Okay. So the next time your hand wants to hit, show me three things you can do with your hand instead.” Child does so.

“Well done! All of us have hands that want to hit sometimes, and we all have to learn what to do instead. Now, what shall we do about Dylan? Can you work it out with Dylan, or do you need my help?”

If the child needs help, parent refuses to be the judge, but teaches conflict resolution skills, requiring both children to think.  (It is easy to make your own poster or click here for sample ideas of home rule posters)

This method of discipline can be used with children as young as three. The advantages of using a rules poster are:

ü  It requires the child to think.

ü  It teaches a lesson for the future.

ü  It helps the child know that the parent is on his team instead of being his adversary.

ü  It gives the parent a chance to affirm the child rather than to criticize him.


Watch future ParentTalk blogs for ideas about handling rules with little ones, school-age children and teens.

Many adults who had been overindulged as children who participated in the Overindulgence Research Studies complained that there were no rules or that rules were not followed in their childhood homes. They said that caused difficulties in their adult lives.

There is more help about avoiding overindulgence in How Much is Too Much? Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children – From Toddlers To Teens – In An Age of Overindulgence (2014, DaCapo Press Lifelong Books).

All photos from Fotolia. 

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2024;