Family Rules & Expectations
Our family has always struggled with remembering and following rules and routines, even those that have been established since before many of the kids were even born. Part of the problem is that our expectations have never been written down, so they’ve always seemed somewhat flexible and unofficial. This list will solve that problem (I think).
The other problem is that we don’t do a good job of explaining the purpose of these rules. Why put limits on electronics? Why make the kids do chores? Why require showers every day? Each expectation does have an individual explanation (i.e., because you’re stinky), but there’s also a general reasoning behind all of them. These expectations help our family by:
- Making it clear to every family member what each of our roles and responsibilities are
- Establishing routines that help our household run smoothly and stay organized
- Prioritizing what’s important (family time, schoolwork, prayer) over what’s not (TV, video games, activities outside the home)
The plan is to introduce these at a family meeting and post them on the fridge, then NOT give in when the kids protest. I’ll post an update in a few weeks to let you know how we’re doing:
A couple of notes for clarity: John is Simon and Esme’s stepdad, so when rules apply just to them, he’s “John.” When rules apply to the other kids, or all of the kids, he’s “Dad.” Also, Simon and Esme go to school (7th and 5th grade), while Grace and Phil are homeschooled (1st grade and kindergarten).
Simon and Esme:
- We will wake you up at 6:30. We will only wake you up one time. If you fall back asleep, you will have to face the consequences (missing breakfast, missing your ride to school, getting a tardy, etc.). You are free to use your alarm clock if you want a back-up wake-up system.
- You need to shower every morning. No nagging, no whining, no exceptions. You need to put on deodorant, comb your hair, put on your uniform, and brush your teeth after your shower.
- Before you leave for school, you must put your dirty clothes in the laundry, put your pajamas away, make your bed, and pick up any messes you have left in your bedroom, the bathroom, or the kitchen. That means hanging up your towel, putting your dishes in the sink, putting away your cereal box, etc.
- There will be no T.V. or electronics before school.
- John will leave the house at 7:25 to drop you off at school. You can either eat breakfast here before that time, or you can eat the school breakfast once you get there. If you are not ready by 7:25, you will either have to leave anyway or find your own way to school. You can pay Mom for a ride; the cost is $1.
- Mom will bring you a forgotten item, such as a book or instrument, one time. After that one time, you will have to face the consequences of leaving your materials at home.
Grace and Phil:
- Mom will wake you up at 7:30. You will need to get dressed on your own with no nagging or whining. After you get dressed, Mom will help you get your breakfast.
- Before homeschool starts, you need to put your dirty clothes in the laundry, put your pajamas away, make your bed, and pick up any messes you have left in your bedroom, the bathroom, or the kitchen. You also need to comb your hair and brush your teeth.
- There will be no T.V. or electronics before school.
- Homeschool will start at 8:30.
- Mom will pick Esme up from school. Simon will be expected to walk unless the weather is bad (rain, heavy snow, temperatures over 90 degrees or under 20 degrees).
- You may have one snack after school. The snack must be eaten before 4 p.m. You must clean up any messes you make while preparing and eating your snack.
- You must have all homework completed, and instruments practiced, before playing with friends. If you go to a friend’s house, or a friend comes to our house, everyone must be back home 30 minutes before your bedtime.
- If you need help with homework, Mom and John are happy to help you. We will not, however, simply give you answers. If you aren’t able to get your homework done before bedtime, you will need to put it away and finish it in the morning. You are not allowed to stay up late to do homework.
- It is your responsibility to know what your homework is and bring home the appropriate resources to get it done. We will not bring you back to school, to a friend’s house, or to the store to get items that you should have brought home with you.
- You must practice your instrument(s) for 15 minutes each day. Practice needs to be completed before playing with friends or electronics, and before 8 p.m. when Stephen goes to bed.
- Mom will occasionally ask for help preparing for dinner. You are expected to respond willingly.
- Once Mom asks you to clear your schoolwork and belongings from the dinner table so she can set the table, you need to do so immediately, without whining.
- During dinner, you will use good table manners. There will be no teasing, trying to gross each other out, playing with your food, complaining about the food, or leaving the table without being asked. You will sit on your rear end with both feet off the chair and under the table.
- If you eat all of your dinner, you can have dessert, if Mom has prepared a dessert. You will not be allowed to prepare your own dessert or snack; that is reserved for bedtime snacks only.
- You will sit at the table until the adults are finished eating. Once the adults are finished eating, we will all help clean up the dining room and kitchen. You are not allowed to leave the kitchen/dining room area until it is completely clean and you have been dismissed by an adult.
- Electronic time is from 7-8 p.m. This is the only time you are allowed to use electronics, unless you need the computer for your homework. If you need a computer to do your homework, you must use it in a common area and let Mom or John know what you’re working on before you begin.
- During electronic time, you can watch T.V. or play on an electronic device in a common area (not your bedroom), IF your homework is done and your instrument has been practiced. You are not allowed to watch or play anything that is rated for older kids (i.e. TV-14) or that contains offensive language, violence, or anything else that Mom and John would consider inappropriate.
- Electronic devices must be returned to the charging station before bedtime. You are not allowed to charge them in your bedroom.
- You may have one bedtime snack if you ate all of your dinner. You are responsible for preparing and cleaning up from your bedtime snack. You must be done eating the snack in time to complete all of your bedtime preparation (brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, etc.) BEFORE your actual bedtime.
- Stephen: 8 p.m.
- Esme, Grace, Phil: 8:30 p.m.
- Simon: 9 p.m.
- Before bedtime, you must pick up any toys, schoolwork, or messes you have made in your room or around the house. You must also brush your teeth, put on your pajamas, and put your dirty clothes in the laundry.
- Grace, Phil, and Stephen will take baths 2-3 nights per week, when Mom and Dad decide it is time. Your bath must be finished before bedtime.
- At 8:15, we will have family prayer time in Esme & Grace’s room. Everyone except Stevie must participate.
- Everyone must go to bed in their own beds. If you wake up in the night and are scared, you can sleep on the couch downstairs or on the floor in Mom and Dad’s room. You are not allowed to sleep in Mom and Dad’s bed.
- Once you are in bed, you can read quietly for up to 30 minutes. You cannot use this time to play on electronics, talk, or play with each other.
- You are responsible for keeping your room tidy: your toys picked up, your bed made, and your clothes organized neatly in your closet and drawers. You are also responsible for cleaning up after meals and picking up any messes you leave around the house (AS SOON AS you are done with the mess and ready to move on to another activity). Mom and Dad should never have to ask for you to do these chores.
- Mom and Dad will occasionally ask for help with other chores around the house, such as dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, and yardwork. You are expected to help willingly and do your best to complete these chores thoroughly and efficiently.
- You will not be paid for doing chores around the house unless the chore is more demanding than usual (such as cleaning the van) AND Mom or Dad offers to pay. Do not ask how much money we’ll give you for performing a chore. The answer will be $0.
- Mom will wash, dry, and fold your laundry. You are responsible for bringing it upstairs and putting it away neatly in the appropriate spot. All laundry must be put away on Sunday night before bed. If you go downstairs in the middle of the week to get more clean clothes, you must take your entire pile of clothes and put it all away. You may not go down and get one outfit or item at a time.
School projects, activities, and deadlines:
- Mom and John will attempt to keep track of all of your school events, such as concerts, field trips, and deadlines for big projects. However, it is ultimately your job to inform us of these events and to be aware of any special paperwork, supplies, or clothing you will need for them.
- If you have a big project due for school, you are responsible for letting us know if you need special supplies WELL IN ADVANCE and for completing the project in a timely manner. If you put it off until the last minute, your emergency will not become our emergency. We will not be able to go to the store at the last minute or stay up late helping you. Plan wisely and get a little bit of it done every night, rather than waiting until the night before.
- We are happy to support you in any extracurricular activity that you wish to participate in, as long as it fits in our budget and allows us to spend sufficient time together as a family. We reserve the right to say no to anything that is too expensive or time-consuming.
- Mom and Dad will buy you all of the clothes, toiletries, and supplies that we think you need. We will also buy you gifts for Christmas, your birthday, and other special occasions.
- If you want something that Mom and Dad do not consider a necessity, you will be responsible for buying it with money that you have saved from gifts or paid work. You will not get an allowance.
- You can spend your own money on anything you want, as long as it isn’t dangerous (example: weapons), alive (example: cat), in violation of our family values (R-rated movies, clothing with bad words on it), or anything else that you know we wouldn’t approve of.
- We will not be buying you a cell phone. Ever. If you want a phone, you will need to pay for the phone and the monthly plan on your own. In our opinion, phones are unnecessary and can lead to unhealthy – even dangerous – behavior and habits. People lived for millennia without them, and we are confident that you can too.
- Everyone must be awake and out of bed by 9 a.m. You are expected to get your breakfast, shower (Simon & Esme), get dressed, and make your bed, by 10 a.m. There will be NO T.V. or electronics until you are ready for the day.
- As on school days, you must be finished with your homework before playing with friends.
- You may be on electronics at any time, as long as your homework is done, your room and any messes you’ve made have been picked up, and any chores you’ve been asked to do are done. As on school days, you must use electronics in a common area, not in your room.
- If you want a snack, you must ASK first, unless you’re getting a piece of fruit. You can get any drink you want without asking, EXCEPT pop.
- Bedtime is the same on weekends as during the week. The only exception is if you are at a special event (movie, friend’s birthday party).
- Everyone is expected to attend church.
Do you struggle with establishing and enforcing your family’s rules & expectations? Share one of your challenges or successes with us in the comments!