I was told by a child psychologist who visited Hannah’s school that sometimes a child responds better to rules if a) they are not repeated throughout the day/every day, 2) they apply to EVERYONE in the household and visitors, 3) they are posted clearly and publicly and 4) rules are chosen as a family
As you can see from the picture, our Shaw Family Rules are posted on the fridge in the kitchen. In case you can’t read them, I will assist:
1. No Yelling: Be Calm, Use Nice Voices
2. Do not use the words:
3. No stomping, marching, screaming when Luke is asleep
4. No sweets in the morning
5. Always share
These rules have done a few things in our house.
– Having the rules publicly displayed has oftentimes caused MORE drama than not having them because in the midst of a scream-off between mom and daughter Hannah will run full speed toward the fridge screaming, “YOU’RE NOT FOLLOWING THE RULES!”. In this case, the rule only applies to mommy. Hannah will insist that she’s not screaming and then of course I’m the rule-breaker.
– Having the rules need to apply to all members of the family and visitors also can be problematic. I agree that “shut up” is NEVER nice for anyone to ever say. Unless of course I’m saying it to the dog who barks at me all day every day. And since she can’t point at the sign, I will continue to say it to her. Sorry Bella but until you can read, talk and point, you’re out of luck.
“Frickin” was supposed to be my nice option for the obvious alternative. It was when Hannah came out with, “Would the frickin’ dog EVER stop barking?” that I realized it was not a good choice. Which is why it’s now on the list. But now, what am I supposed to say? The “F” word is my go-to expletive that just WORKS and without it, I’m at a loss. I find myself double or triple dipping with the word when I’m alone just to get it out of my system. “Mother fucking fucker” I like to say in MANY driving situations, when I’m on hold too long with customer service on the phone, when TiVO cuts my show short, when my pants are too tight… you name it.
Avoiding “stupid” in all cases also is just, well, stupid. I can see it being a bad word when describing another child which is why it’s off limits at Hannah’s preschool. But I don’t go around calling other people stupid, I use the word in most cases to describe how things look. “That shirt with those pants Hannah, looks stupid”. Ok, maybe it’s not so nice…
– Having the whole family partake in the writing of the rules was a good thing. She chose the “no sweets in the morning” rule because that is a very easy one for her to follow. She loves breakfast and never requests dessert after it. She has tried to tell me that I can’t have sugar in my coffee since it’s a sweet and it’s morning but one stern, “zip-it” out of my mouth and she got the message. Don’t mess with my coffee or the fact that I like it as close to coffee icecream as is possible. I got to choose the “no stomping, marching or screaming while Luke is asleep rule”. I just couldn’t understand how such a little person could make SO much noise walking! Up the stairs, down the stairs, through the halls… it’s not even like a herd of elephants – it’s like HERDS of elephants. As if she has 12 legs instead of 2. Like she’s throwing bricks with each step… you get the point. And the screaming… the problem is that her whisper is literally louder than the scream. Why don’t kids know how to whisper? Or is it just mine? I didn’t know a whisper could come out so loud but we’re working on it.
– Hannah also wrote the last rule, “Always Share” which she does quite well. She actually forces sharing on Luke wanting him so badly to play with her. “Take this Luke!”. “Play with this”. It’s sweet and sad all in one sometimes because he just doesn’t quite get how to play, “I’m the vet, you’re the doggie” game that she so desperately wants to get him into (as she wraps him in “bandages”, gives him shots and puts a pretend thermometer near his tush).
So do these rules work? Not so much. They are now there for comic relief for our guests who go to grab themselves a beer from the fridge and I inform them these are the rules of the house. “Shut up, no frickin way – how stupid!” was the response of our last dinner guest.