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There are many ways and opportunities to convey our expectations to children. Talking to children and clearly conveying expectations involves communication skills. Modeling the type of behavior you expect is also important. Rules can be used as a means to convey expectations.

Rules can be used to:

  • prevent problems from happening;
  • respond to problems that happen repeatedly;
  • replace ineffective ways of dealing with situations;
  • help make the world feel safe and predictable; and
  • eliminate a lot of discussion and decision-making about ordinary life events.

The following are guidelines to consider in using rules:

  • Prioritize and establish a few rules that are most important to the well-being and safety of the family.
  • Involve family members in setting rules.
  • Make sure children understand the reasons or rationale for the rule.
  • Make sure the rule addresses the issue it is intended to address.
  • Make rules clear.
  • Make sure children understand the exceptions to the rule.
  • Make rules positive and action oriented. Save "don't" for specific safety situations.
  • Make sure rules "grow" with the child.
  • Make only those rules that you are confident you can enforce over time.
  • Be consistent.

Content used with permission from the Child Welfare League of America,

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For more information or to discuss parenting concerns please contact Partners Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-724-4EAP.

In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service. 

This content was last modified on: 09/08/2008

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