On December 31, 2000, my 12-year-old yelled, “you and dad are soooo ill prepared to raise kids in the new millennium”. She was right; although she did not appreciate our laughter at the topic. These “Rules of Engagement” work as well today as they did twenty years ago. Let me share a few, as we enter this new decade.

  1. “When you use good manners, people invite you back”. The importance of saying “please” and “thank you”, is the beginning point for not only good manners, but is helps kids learn boundaries and allows them to learn to ask for help. Manners are a taught skill set.
  2. “Don’t touch things that don’t belong to you”. No one likes to have their personal items used or taken without asking, and there are consequences. Learning to respect other’s personal property, whether it be a pencil, or a play-station is taught through example. This simple rule supports kids to learn the value of sharing and learning to accept “no” as an answer. Taking something that you do not own is called stealing.
  3. “Are you talking back to me? It sounds like you are beginning you talk back to me….” This allows your kids to check themselves. It also allows them to argue a “point”, in a respectful way. You still may not agree with the topic, but it lets them express their emotions in an a less defensive or highly-charged emotional manner. Taking a short time-out for all parties to adjust their attitudes also helps.
  4. “Be honest with me. I may not like what I am hearing, but I cannot help unless I know the WHOLE situation”. Kids learn “the sin of omission” in middle school and use it more often in high school. These are challenging years. However, by allowing your kids to know you will support them through the poor choices they may make, even when you don’t like what you’re hearing, lets them know you are an ally. Although there may be consequences, knowing you still listen opens the door to them trusting you with other matters.
  5. “I am going to be the best parent I can be, whether you like it or not”. Being a parent is the hardest and most rewarding job we have. My children are “my best work”. And, like all families, we had our “stuff”. I know I made parenting mistakes. But overall, children that feel loved, safe, and heard grow up being able to love, listen, and provide emotional safety for themselves and to others. They also recognize when it is not there.

These “Rules of Engagement” do work. Be open when you have to, be tough when you need to, and love them through it all. Happy parenting in 2020 and beyond!

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