Rules can help you regain control of your home – Saratogian

Too often we wait for things to get out of hand before doing serious work to improve problems at home.

However, even if you’ve waited too long, you can make changes to improve cooperation and calm in your home. One key is to make sure you understand leverage and how to apply it in your home (we covered that last week!)

Without leverage and structure, good habits tend to erode and parents find themselves frustrated and relying on more demanding and controlling language. It does not work and should be abandoned. So, the key to raising cooperative and responsible children is to be consistent with structure and your use of daily influence with children. (How do we use leverage: responsibilities and work are done daily before children have access to their gifts.)

In today’s article, we go even further. We discuss the importance of setting limits and relying on the effective use of limits to teach better “control” of behavior.

Limits and Rules: What Really Works

While structure is important, it’s equally important to set firm boundaries with clear consequences. Thus, to integrate the domestic limits that your child will respect, it is essential to understand how we teach respect for the limits that you set for yourself.

Many parents will tell me that they have made a list of rules and constantly repeat them to their teenager, but he/she does not listen or follow the rules. There’s a good reason for that.

1 — Rules/limits mean nothing without clear consequences

For many children and teens, any rule or limit you set is useless with no clear consequence. This is also true for many adults. If the speed limit is 65, and there were no tickets to go faster, many of us would be driving well over the daily speed limit. Why? Because the consequence is there to teach respect for the speed limit; without it, we would not respect it.

To bring this concept home, consider your teenager’s iPhone. If you tell your daughter that she can’t use her phone after 10 p.m., but stays on her phone in her room long after that time, we see an unnecessary rule or limit. If you tell your kids to eat in the kitchen, not in the family room, but you regularly find food in the family room, chances are you won’t have any consequences for the limit you’re supposed to have set. .

We could go on with many examples, but the point is this: Limits or rules really don’t mean anything to many kids if you don’t have consequences if you go over that limit or break that rule. Don’t expect them to listen because you asked or because they should, because the thought will drive many of you crazy!

2 — Do not use control language. Give a choice, but explain the consequences of each choice once, and only once

To gain authority while giving up control, avoid pretending you can dictate children’s behavior. Instead, let them know they have a choice when it comes to the boundaries and rules you set: they can honor them and enjoy life, or they can ignore them and face a consequence. For limits to be truly effective, you want to make sure that each choice comes with a clear, pre-determined consequence. This needs to be built into the rule or boundary because that’s how your teen will learn to honor them.

Note that we want to mimic reality. In the real world, we can go 90 mph because no one can really stop us. Yet if we choose to drive that fast, there is often a painful consequence – flashing red lights signal a costly consequence, hence the teaching of the limit.

The goal here is to avoid controlling/requiring language where you “tell” your kids what they can or can’t do because, as noted above, most won’t respect it. Instead, let them know that they always have a choice and that every choice has a consequence.

Now you might be wondering how to manage your daughter’s phone usage? A rule might be that your daughter can enjoy her phone tomorrow if the phone is in her charger at 10 p.m. in mom’s room and stays there. But she needs to understand that if she doesn’t put it in the charger before 10 a.m. or takes it out for use after that time, the phone will be disabled the next day and remain off for 48 hours. The key is to let her decide and learn from her choices. Don’t protect her from her choices.

Final remarks: Limit the number of rules, so life is simple. But reinforce the rules with clear boundaries that are set with consequences. Don’t keep talking about it.

Remember: it is the consequence that teaches the limit, not your deception or your preaching. Be clear, consistent and upfront about each consequence. Then just keep your emotions out and let the learning begin. They will learn to respect the boundaries taught in this way, with far fewer futile exchanges of words aimed at controlling their behavior.

Clifton Park-based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist Dr. Randy Cale offers practical advice for a host of parenting issues. His website,, offers free parenting tips and an email newsletter. Readers can learn more by viewing past articles found on The Saratogian, The Record and The Community News websites. Submit your questions to [email protected]

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