Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pencil Vs. Pen Rules

As your child gets older, the way you approach rules and consequences can change a bit. Remember, the reason we make and enforce rules is to teach our children how to manage their own behavior so they become responsible adults. When parents refuse to  change rules as the child grows, the child feels that he’s being treated unfairly and tends to rebel.

The end goal of discipline is for your child to learn to control his or her own behavior. That being said, one way you can keep communication lines open with your child when discussing rules is to have “pen” and “pencil” rules. This simply means some rules can change as your child earns privileges while other rules that are written are not negotiable.

Some rules should always be “pen rules” because they are needed to keep your child safe. These “pen rules” also follow the laws of our society. Pen rules would include: absolutely no under-age drinking, no drugs, you must drive the speed limit and follow the state rules for teenage drivers, no hitting, etc. These rules need to be strictly enforced and they are not negotiable. Some parents also include “No opposite sex friends in your bedroom” and other similar household rules.

Some rules can be written in pencil so that they may be negotiated and changed as your child matures. A good example of a pencil rule is bed time. It’s normal for children around the age of 8 or 9 to want a later bed time. You can talk about this and be willing to compromise if you feel your child’s behavior has earned a later bed time. It would sound like this, “You have been doing well in school and with your behavior. Perhaps we could make your bedtime 30 (or 45) minutes later because you are getting older. However, if I see your grades going down, or you are grouchy because you haven’t been getting enough sleep, I will put your bedtime back to the earlier time. Let’s try it for two weeks? Do you agree with this deal?”

Pencil rules help your child feel he or she is being listened to and that his or her needs are being met. When you discuss pencil rules, your child needs to understand that his or her behavior earned the change and that poor behavior will “earn back” the earlier rule. This helps your child understand consequences of his or her behavior in both good and bad ways.

Make a list with each of your children pencil rules and pen rules. As they get older, be open to discussions on the pencil rules.

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