Setting Rules & Enforcing Them

Setting rules is one thing, but enforcing them is quite another.  Sometimes we don’t feel like starting up with our kids to make a point.  But wait!  What is at stake when we don’t enforce the rules.  The sign says, “Difficult Roads Lead to Beautiful Destinations,”  I couldn’t agree more.  When I was in high school, I fell for this girl visiting her relatives in our town.  I was head over heels over her and enjoyed sitting with her and talking about the future.  It was great until I came home late one night.  I didn’t intend to, but I had to walk, and she lived way over on the other side of town.  I didn’t allow enough time to get home.  My dad taught me a good lesson about abiding by his rules, including being back on time.  I was never late again, but the experience was indeed tricky.  I couldn’t see this girl again, and then summer ended, and she went back to her community.  It was probably just as well, but it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time.

Setting rules with kids is essential and helps keep things running smoothly, but they also teach kids responsibility, choices, and follow through with what you say.  Here are a few guidelines to help.

  1.  Instead of just making a list of rules and handing them to your child, or worse yet, making them up as you go, sit with them and discuss guidelines that you want your young person to follow.  Seek their input and write something upon which you both can agree.  Make sure they have a copy and post it in their room so they can see them.  Discuss not only your expectations but the consequences for violation-1, violation-2, violation-3.  Get their ideas on what practical consequences should be in advance.
  2. You must follow through with the consequences!  If you do not follow through, then kids learn quickly that what you say doesn’t matter.  As an assistant principal in a high school, I can’t tell you how often in my office, during a disciplinary conference, I heard parents say to their kids some punishment.  The kids would often laugh!  How awful I thought that would never happen with my parents, but it indicated that follow-through would likely not occur.
  3. Catch them being good!  Compliment their behavior when they follow the rules, and for other things as well.  Please don’t overdo it, but once in a while, let them know that something they did was a nice gesture.  Positive reinforcement helps their self-esteem their self-confidence and enables them to see that they can trust their judgment.  I remember growing up and seldom receiving any compliments or support.  When I needed to make a decision, and it turned out to be correct, criticism caused a loss of trust. Yikes, find those things you can support your young person on, and let them know that you have noticed.
  4. Discuss alcohol, drugs, vaping, and sex with your kids and let them know of the natural consequences.  Discuss with them how one weak moment can change your entire life, ruin your health, and destroy your reputation.  Let them know that you love them too much for them to get hurt by making a poor choice.  I also like to discuss that those moments of decision we all face in life only lasts a few seconds or maybe a minute, and then the temptation is gone.  Teach your kids to be healthy and hold to their values during those fleeting moments.

For some ideas on setting school boundaries, please see What Kids Need: School Boundaries – Dr. Rich Patterson ( has a great article on How to Set Healthy Boundaries for Kids at How to Set Healthy Boundaries for Kids (


I hope that these are helpful for our parents out there.

Yours for Better Parenting,