House Rules

Recently, one of my sisters-in-law told me that I should do a post about my weird house rules. I said, “But everyone has those kinds of rules, right? Each family figures out what they need to live peacefully.” But she said that mine were peculiarly weird. So, here we go.

1) I’ve written about this before, but we have a rule that Silas gets to pick things on odd-numbered days and Petra gets to pick on even-numbered days.

2) No nasty hobbitses get second breakfast before mama has had first breakfast (self-explanatory). I actually sort of learned this from Bethany. When her third baby was tiny, I was visiting and she had gotten snack for all the children and just sat down with her cup of tea, when her oldest started asking for seconds or thirds or something. Bethany very calmly and sweetly said, “Mama is a person, too. I’m going to have my tea first and then we’ll get you more.” “Mama is a person, too” became my mantra during Petra’s early years.

3) You don’t get to complain about being cold if you are not wearing pants (self-explanatory).

4) You get seven minus your age fits per day. This means that Silas, at six, is allowed one fit per day, while Petra gets three. People ask me what I do if they exceed their allotment. What’s the enforcement mechanism? Well, years ago, when Silas was having a whiny day, I asked him to go somewhere where I didn’t have to listen to him whine. “But I want you to hear it!” he said. So the real thing here is that I only will LISTEN TO and/or ACCOMMODATE that number of fits per day. They can throw more fits or get as angry as they want, but they shouldn’t expect me to make any attempt to appease them, or even remain in the same room.

5) (related to 4) We don’t negotiate with terrorists. If the kids throw a fit over something they want, their odds of getting it become more or less zero. We say, somewhat frequently, “Does throwing a fit ever get you what you want? Then why are you still doing it?”

Not quite a house rule, but sort of related: Let's get outside every day, even if it's just for a little bit. It helps our attitudes.
Not quite a house rule, but sort of related: Let’s get outside every day, even if it’s just for a little bit. It helps our attitudes.

6) Don’t wake parents until the lights turn on. We have some Christmas lights in their room, on a plug timer. If they wake up and the lights are off, they can do pretty much anything they want, but woe unto those who come padding into our room before the lights turn on.

7) The first rule of watching time is, we don’t talk about watching time. The kids get about 30 minutes of TV (Netflix) each day, right after rest time. If they hassle me about it earlier in the day–when are we doing it, what can they watch, who gets to pick today–then sometimes watching time doesn’t happen. I have it scheduled and regimented because I don’t want to have those conversations all day long. We have better things to do. Same thing with treats–they get one small treat at watching time, but not if they bother me about it all day.

8) Every time you ask when rest time will be over, rest time gets longer (self-explanatory).

9) Sometimes, you have to read a book in order to get a book read to you. Mama’s voice gets tired, kids need some practice, BOB books are super short. They whine endlessly about this, but it does get them to practice their reading.

10) We do very little punishment, in any formal sense. We’re fully invested in “unconditional parenting” at this point, and can hardly imagine it any other way. The one exception is physical violence. If they pinch or hit or scratch or bite each other, they get a time out (1 min per year of age). I asked Crystal, a Montessori teacher, once how she handles physical violence in her classroom, and then totally stole what she said, which is that she removes the perpetrator from the classroom, but she frames it around the idea that she wants all her “friends” to be safe, and her friend [the victim] isn’t safe with [the attacker] right now. So she’s just going to let him chill until he feels like he can be safe for the other kid to be around. She says she doesn’t have to do it very often, and it’s not framed around a kid being a bad person or anything, just about safety in community. And that is how we talk about violence, in our family.

11) Potty talk (poop jokes) is fine, but you have to sit on the potty while you talk about potty-related things.

So now I’m curious: What are your weird “house rules”?


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One Comment

  1. Laurie
    November 30, 2016

    How fun to stumble upon your blog! Your house rules look very similar to mine when our children were that age. I remember when we bought a digital clock so that in the morning our oldest could tell when the first number was a 6. My favorite rule from my mother-in-law is that if you complain about being bored I will find things for you to do. I think that in most cases house rules apply to everyone in the house, even friends over for playdates. One “bored” child visiting our home was a bit surprised when I offered to let her help me with dishes.

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