Expectations Spelled Out
Filed Under (parenting tips, Uncategorized)
Long ago, when my three children were small, I felt the need to get the rules straight.  During a particularly trying day, it became obvious that a clear set of guidelines was necessary.  Following the assumption that a child cannot be expected to face consequences if she doesn’t know what’s expected of her, the Family Code of Conduct was born. Together, the kids and I outlined the behaviors and attitudes that we hoped to embody.  They included age-typical suggestions from the preschoolers like, ‘No one should be mean.’  and, “Don’t be wude (rude).”  Whittled down, they looked like this:
  • Honesty:  Always tell the truth
  • Do No Harm:  No hitting, pinching , teasing, or otherwise hurting or threatening
  • Respect: Do not touch other people’s possessions without asking.  When you use other’s possessions, treat them with care.
  • Courtesy:  Let others speak without interrupting.  Knock before entering a room.
  • Self-Sufficiency:  Everyone takes care of his or her own possessions, messes, and person.
  • Manners:  Say please and thank you.
  • Kindness: Treat other people the way you want to be treated.  Be helpful whenever you can.

Our new family guidelines were typed up on pretty paper and framed.  We decided to place them in the main bathroom to be sure every family member would see them daily.

Years later, the Code of Conduct remains posted in the same spot.  It tends to get overlooked, so occasionally we take it off the wall and refer to it more deliberately. We all need a spit-shine in the behavior department once in a while.

Because the children had a part in developing our family rules (though they now deny it) and perhaps
because it was made ‘official’ by framing it, the Code of Conduct is an irrefutable standard.  Of course the rules have been broken, but  there is never a question of what is expected and acceptable.  As my young son pointed out one day, ‘I don’t do that.  I’m a Dunham.  It’s a rule.’

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