The Rs: Rules, Respect, and Repercussions


“The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.” 

~ Benjamin Franklin, Inventor and Politician

Rules: Creating Clear Expectations

One of the lessons I have learned from being the President of a company is the importance of making rules and following through with them. I am a big believer in rewarding people who follow the rules and achieve their goals and establishing consequences for those who do not. Consistently communicating the benefits of staying within established guidelines versus the challenges of “driving outside of the guard rails” gives everyone the best chance to succeed at work and at home. When it comes to raising children, it's important to teach them to respect authority, understand expectations, and realize that there are consequences (good and/or bad) for either meeting those expectations or not. We do our kids a disservice if we ignore the rules we set at home, because there is very little chance of that happening later in their lives at work.

In order to create as much positive energy as we can in the home, it is important that we clearly communicate what behaviors we expect from our children. I firmly believe that children want to please their parents, so it's our job to make sure they know what the rules are, how to respect them, and what the repercussions will be when the rules are broken. When expectations are vague and/or not communicated plainly, it creates confusion and unnecessary negative energy. Simply defining rules goes a long way towards eliminating any chance for mutual mystification. This is why KIDmandment 7 is all about teaching The Rs: Rules, Respect, and Repercussions.

Even though some people think disciplining their children is wrong, I believe it's necessary in order to teach our kids how to live in the real world. Now, don’t let your imagination go wild, I am not talking about screaming, yelling, biting, or fighting. I am suggesting you discipline your children the same way you would want to be coached and counseled at work. No one yells at you at work, nor should you yell at your kids. If you got yelled at by a supervisor or physically hit, I would assume you would quit or at the very least start looking for another job. Well, kids can't exactly “quit” the family, but they can mentally check out and start challenging you even more than what you would expect from a child who deep down does not want to disappoint their parents.

That's why we need to teach our children how to be independent, healthy, stable adults who can function on their own. The real world certainly has rules and consequences for not following through on them. Our job is to create good habits while they are living at home that will continue to positively impact their lives once they are on their own.

Repercussions: Consequences and Communication

When our kids understand why a rule is in place, they are more likely to accept it because they understand the philosophy behind it. However, everyone slips up from time to time and makes mistakes. This is why, in addition to clearly defining the rules for our children and the repercussions for when they are not met, it’s important that parents make use of teachable moments.

A teachable moment is not something you can always plan for; rather, it is a fleeting opportunity that must be sensed and seized. reminds us that teachable moments don’t have to involve lecturing or boring monologs: 

“[Teachable Moments] can happen at home, while driving in the car, while standing in line at the bank – anywhere, in fact.” 

One teachable moment I vividly remember happened when my wife and I went out of town for the weekend. While we were away, our daughter volunteered to take in a dog from a friend who couldn't care for it — without asking us, of course! When we got home we were surprised to discover that we had a new dog. 

Instead of demanding that she take the dog back, which would have caused her to resent us, we asked her a few simple questions about how she planned to pay for and care for the dog, and had her develop a plan on how it would be implemented. There was no screaming, no yelling, no threatening, and no dictating, just questions.

Well, it didn’t take long before she realized that what sounded like a really good idea at the time turned out to be a disaster. Just because she came home with a “problem” didn’t mean that we had to accept it, so instead of taking on the responsibility of caring for the dog, she found it a new home within two days. Learning to examine the repercussions of her decision to take responsibility for a dog (and being forced to accept those repercussions) turned out not only to be a great learning experience for all of us, but enhanced our relationship rather than hurting it!

Respect: Authority and Manners

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners” – Laurence Stern

A second teachable moment occurred when the same weekend she got the dog, she also decided to get her ear pierced. Obviously, she was going through her rebel years (or in this case a rebel weekend, as it did not last long). Instead of letting her “get away” with piercing her ear, we made her take the earring out and let the hole close up.

Lesson learned — we are the boss, we make the decisions, and there are consequences for disrespecting the rules. Just like in business, family relationships are built on respect and trust, so doing things sneakily or behind people's backs is not acceptable. Half-truths are no better than lies, and we have agreed upon full disclosure in our household. It doesn't always happen, but at least there is a clear understanding of what is expected.

Family Values

Respect for the family means adhering to the rules as we have agreed on them. One thing I would encourage every family to do is sit down and create a “Family Values Statement” that states the values that are important to all of you. Consider it a contract between each member of the household about what behaviors are and are not acceptable. 

These values are the basis for the household rules, and when a problem arises, you can point back to the Values Statement and discuss which values are not being upheld. We've even beautifully framed our Family Values Statement for everyone to see as they enter our home. As you can imagine, with these statements top of mind, they create an abundance of teachable moments and a set of guidelines to fall back on when needed!

What are the values that are important to your family, and how do you address it when they are not upheld? Join the conversation by tweeting @JeffOddo!