Monday, July 23, 2007

Family Rules

For years I had a list of "family rules" tacked up on the wall in the upstairs hallway. I had printed it out on the computer and hoped that we could make them instinctive. I really wanted them to just be a reminder of the rules of behavior we talked about as a family. There were major headings like "Respect for Our World," and "Respect for Our Family," and "Respect for Others." A rule under the heading "Respect for Our World," was "Leave a Place Better Than You Found It." This was because I just couldn't stand it when the boys would not put something away because "they hadn't taken it out." My son once picked up litter by a creek in our favorite park. He was disgusted that someone would defile such a beautiful spot. As he went over to the trash receptacle, he said to me matter-of-factly, "I'm leaving a place better than I found it."

I found that some rules needed to be added as we went along. When my oldest boy was eight he went on a playdate where there were older siblings. He came home with a bruise on his chest from someone giving him what is called a "purple nurple." I was absolutely horrified. Quickly I added "Respect for your own body" to our list of rules.

When the boys became teenagers I needed an updated list of rules. They were really the same rules, but more explicitly phrased. "Respect for your own body," is now a heading over "No drugs," "No alcohol." I was squeamish about posting rules which pertained to sex, so I worded them in a way that the boys know exactly what I mean (because we've talked about it so much). So under "Respect for Others" as well as "Respect for Yourselves" is "Don't do anything that will bring you consequences and responsibilities."

In many ways, the boys think I am silly. They roll their eyes and sometimes even laugh. But they know what I stand for and they know what is expected of them as members of this family. And so, as my four-year old daughter learns to read, I will make a new "starter list" for her. Ideally, the boys will even help me with it. It shouldn't be hard since the list is just a written reminder of all of the things we stand for as a family.

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