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Let’s be honest… when it comes to raising a child, most of our energies are directed at keeping them safe.
But how many of us have actually stopped to think about grooming them to be good humans and, eventually, well-adjusted adults?
Today, more than ever, raising a healthy and grounded child is critical to their success… not to mention one way to make the world a better place for them in the future.
By implementing house rules of kids, you can both accomplish this feat… as well take a handful of things off your parental plate.
It’s a win/win.
So, in the article, I’m going to outline 21 house rules for kids that will surely send them merrily on their way towards becoming amazing grown-ups.
The rules don’t have to be terribly complex. And, if I’m being honest, after reading what I have to say… you may find yourself uttering, “why didn’t I think of that one?”, as the lightbulb goes off in your head.
But don’t thank me now… continue reading and save the silent applause for later.
21 House Rules for Your Kids
House Rule #1: Knock on Closed Doors Before Entering
This is a pretty basic rule, but important nonetheless.
It’s more about instilling the importance of respecting one’s privacy and personal space.
I suppose I could have just said that.
But, many younger children won’t really understand the concept in its truest sense until they are a bit older (say 8+) and start to actually covet some privacy for themselves.
The age when they feel like they need some alone time.
When they don’t want their siblings going through their bookshelf, desk or drawers.
Or, dare I say, they begin to feel bashful getting changed in front of others. Even you, mom.
While the littlest lads and lassies may not yet care about these things, it’s not lost on them to teach the concept of knocking before you enter a room… waiting to be invited in.
It’s about boundaries and privacy… and one lesson they will certainly thank you for teaching later in life.
House Rule #2: Limiting Screen Time to an Hour a Day
This is one house rule for kids that you probably know you should enforce… yet often don’t.
Because it’s so much easier to keep the kids occupied with screen time when you’re busy, then have them bother you every few minutes with trivial things.
Things like arguments over a sibling who won’t share.
Snack requests after they just had breakfast 15 minutes ago.
Or the class, “I’m bored outside”.
Don’t feel bad. Every parent has been guilty of leaning on the tech crutch at one time or another… I’d wager my tablet on it.
See what I did there?
Yes, technology is great! We wouldn’t be where we are as a society without it.
That being said, too much screen time can have all sorts of negative impact on your child’s development.
For starters, it runs the risk of sending the message that you’re too busy to tend to their needs or spend time with them.
And while this is likely not the case, kids won’t always connect the dots. As much as you try and explain that “mommy needs to work for an hour” or “dad wants to mow the lawn before it rains”… kids will often just not get it.
They believe they are the center of your universe and that you will stop whatever it is you’re doing to put them first, which may instill a feeling of self entitlement in your kids… which will often carry into adulthood.
And don’t we all just secretly despise those people?
The trust fund baby who has never held a job in his life.
The woman who will only date a man who makes a certain amount of money.
The guy at work who treats his assistant like she’s a servant.
Your kids need to understand the art of patience and self sufficiency.
By limiting the screen time, you are sending a message that they need to find some other way to entertain themselves… or grab themselves an apple if they are hungry and can’t wait for lunch.
Too much screen time can also result in passive listening in children, which will be a hard habit to break as they get older.
I have lost track of the number of times I’ve had to call my children repeatedly to come for a meal, while they’re playing their video games or tablets.
Or the times they almost missed the school bus because they were in the middle of a level and never got their shoes on like I asked.
And then there was the time I burnt myself on a pan making them homemade donuts… and only after my third shout for help did 1 of our four children (yes, only one) stop playing Roblox to check what was wrong.
Sadly, it’s not entirely their fault.
Think of screen time as holding your breath under water. You’re concentrating on your breathing, but you can still hear muffled noises coming from the surface.
Do you come up right away? Likely, no.
The same goes for screen time. Kids can hear you speaking, but they are so engulfed in what they are doing, they can’t quite make out the words.
So they won’t stop right away. They are passively listening.
This nasty habit is one they may be able to get away with as children; but, as they grow up, it will likely land them in trouble at school, work… even relationships.
Last, but not least, too much screen time means less time using their imaginations… and more time developing unrealistic expectations.
Both can be extremely detrimental to a child’s development.
If you're looking for other activities they can do instead, here's a list of fun things kids can do when they're bored.
House Rule #3: Pick up After Yourself
This rule is one that won’t just help your child, but make your life a little easier as well.
I must vacuum or sweep at least four times each day. Once after every meal… and once again for good measure at the end of the day.
There are days when I feel as if I’m stuck in a time loop… cleaning, laundry, cooking. More laundry.
And after a while, it gets old… if it hasn’t already for you.
So do yourself a favor and teach your kid the house rule of cleaning up after themselves.
I’m not saying to make your 4 year-old wash dishes… what I am saying is make them put their plastic dish in the sink.
Make them clean up their toys when they are finished playing.
Older kids should be able to throw laundry into the actual hamper, rather than leave it on their bedroom floor for you to pick up.
They can make beds.
Tweens and teens should be able to actually carry their dirty clothes basket to the laundry room. Maybe even do a load or two.
Obviously, you know your child’s limitations better than I… but each child is capable of cleaning up a bit.
Not only will their future college roommate and spouse thank you for instilling this house rule, but you’ll possibly gain an extra few minutes for yourself in the process.
House Rule #4: Make Amends When You Hurt Someone
The art of saying “I’m sorry” is not an easy one for children to master… especially when they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong.
The concept of making things right with someone you’ve hurt is even harder for them to grasp.
Whether it’s pinching another child for taking their doll, or shouting “I hate you” at their brother for taking their turn on the swing, a child needs to be taught to understand action and consequence.
That by harming another person with actions or words, they are accountable for making amends.
You are not only teaching them how to behave properly, but you are also teaching them to be conscientious.
Raising conscientious children will instill a moral code in them… one where they are able to differentiate right from wrong and, ultimately, be better adults for it.
They will learn to think twice before hurting someone and, when they inevitably do, they will apologize for it.
House Rule #5: Tell the Truth
We all lie.
In fact, society even coined the phrase “white lie” to define those bits of truth we like to stretch from time to time… even referring to them as half truths.
After all, is it really a lie if you go golfing with your friends… but tell your wife that you were entertaining clients?
I mean you did go golfing… that is true.
But it wasn’t work related.
Maybe you were afraid she’d say “no” if you just wanted some time with your buds? Or that you’d have to reciprocate by watching the kids one day so she could go for a massage?
Conversely, what if your teenager says she is going to the mall with her girlfriends… but instead winds up at the beach for the day with a group of co-eds?
As trivial and harmless as these white lies or fabrications seem, they will often still land you into trouble.
What’s worse is they can also lead to a diminished sense of accountability for one’s actions, which can result in a lapse of judgement when it comes to what you consider an acceptable lie.
Eventually the lines will blur between fabrication, white lie and actual lie… and once that happens, there is no going back.
Once trust is broken, it is very hard to gain it back.
Establish house rules for kids that do not tolerate lying.
While the punishment may vary by degree of lie, the message still needs to enforce that lies are wrong and won’t be dismissed.
House Rule #6: Teach Them the Value of Please and Thank You
As a mom of four, many days leave me feeling unappreciated.
I wake up early to get a start on the day… make coffee, breakfast, pack lunches, start the neverending load of laundry, clean up their messes, get them out the door on time.
Then I try to squeeze my writing into the mix during my precious “down time”… and if I’m really lucky, I get my exercise in.
Once the kids get home, it’s back to the grind. Activities, dinner prep, homework, showers, bedtime.
And if I had a nickel for every time they said “please” or “thank you” to me in a typical week… I’d have a dollar.
Look, I’m not complaining. Really I’m not.
I love being a mom. Their mom, especially. They are great kids… but they are somewhat lacking in the affirmation department.
All that is partly my fault.
If I don’t stress the importance of these words, then I’ve failed them. And, in turn, they won’t say it to their dad and I… let alone other people.
It’s less about the words, as it is what they represent. They indicate respect and gratitude, which is key in any meaningful relationship.
House Rule #7: Practice Good Dental and Body Hygiene
Teaching your child to practice good hygiene is another rule that may seem like a “no brainer”, but it is also one that tends to fall to the wayside when life gets hectic.
I will be the first to admit that, after a long day, unless the kids have swarms of flies around them or mud in their ears… I have no problem replacing a bath for a quick wipe down.
Similarly, if it’s late and the kids are cranky, I’ve been known to just let them use a little mouthwash instead of brushing.
They can just do it in the morning.
But, here’s the problem with that…
Many times the mornings are even crazier than the evenings and the first thing that gets skipped is, you guessed it, the hygiene habit.
And if your kids think you’re ok with letting them skip those things, why on earth would they take ownership of their hygiene as they get older?
So, as tempting as it may be, don’t gloss over these important house rules for kids.
If it helps, try making a chart so they can be accountable for checking off that it gets done.
House Rule #8: Attend Family Socials
I was going to use the phrase, “family meetings”… but I’m not a fan.
Meetings seem so formal and are often associated with a problem that needs fixing; but, socials sound like fun.
Happy, casual gatherings. Some may even involve food and beverages.
Put a family social on the calendar and make it mandatory.
Then grab a hat and have each family member write on a piece of paper one topic they would like to discuss. Have everyone pick one of the topics to read aloud and start talking.
Make sure you have some snacks and a movie or board games lined up to watch at the end… so that the social finishes on a positive note.
House Rule #9: Choose Your Words Wisely
In the same way we are responsible for our own actions, we are responsible for the words that come out of our mouths.
Nobody can tell you what to say.
Sure, they can make suggestions; but, ultimately it’s your call.
And words are powerful, often more than we realize.
They say actions speak louder than words, but that is not always the case… especially if your words hurt someone else’s feelings or disrespect them in some way.
Once the words are spoken, they can’t be taken back.
Sure, you can try and retract… apologize… but the initial damage has already been done.
Teaching your children to think before they speak is a must on the list of house rules for kids. It will save them the embarrassment of being seen as a lesser person, and you the embarrassment of being seen as “that parent” who can’t control their kids.
House Rule #10: Following Through, Put Words Into Action
These are words we have all been found guilty of using when it comes to crossing something off our to-do list.
Maybe it’s a school assignment.
A personal goal.
Whenever we don’t want to do something, we have a tendency to put it off.
Similarly, if we are scared of change, we have a tendency to put it off.
We always think we have tomorrow, but that is no guarantee.
Not to mention, sometimes the things we are putting off are things others are counting on us to get done.
Teaching your children to follow through and finish what they start is a crucial house rule to impart… as not only will it make you a little less crazy, but it will let others know your child is someone to be counted on.
(If you're looking for a way to keep your teenager busy, here are some good hobbies for teens to suggest.)
House Rule #11: Listen To and Respect Your Elders
While the use of the word may seem a bit dated, the sentiment is as true now as it was when it was first written in the book of Leviticus.
We’re talking Old Testament stuff.
Today, people tend to age differently than they once did… trying to fight it off for as long as possible. But the term “elder” is really less about physical aging and more about the wisdom that comes with age.
Well, for most of us.
A big part of life is learning from our mistakes. This way, when we get older, we are able to share what we’ve discovered with others.
Teaching your children to listen to and respect their elders is also a good way of
teaching them to have an open mind and accept direction and guidance from adults… adults who have seen and done things that have earned them the right to be treated honorably.
House Rule #12: Keep An Open Mind, Embrace Other’s Differences
Speaking of an open mind…
Our world is filled with all different types of people… people with different color skin, different religious and political beliefs, different opinions and different ways of doing things.
Set the tone.
Teach your children early that different doesn't mean wrong. And having differences with others is not always a bad thing.
If you are picking and choosing which of the house rules for kids to exercise, this is a must.
This one teaches tolerance in diversity.
Today, more than ever, we need this to be instilled in the minds of our youth.
All lives matter. All points of view should be considered. And all people deserve our respect until they’ve given us a legitimate reason not to.
House Rule #13: Don’t Be a Bully
Mean people suck.
I think I read that on a bumper sticker once.
But it doesn’t matter… because it’s true.
Bullying is a very big problem among kids. And, sadly, if the bully’s aren’t stopped when they are children… they will likely continue to bully when they’re grown.
The art of bullying is not always about actions, it’s about words. Harmful, ugly, belligerent words that are often meant to tease.
I told you they were powerful.
If you catch your child in the act of bullying, stop it in its tracks… even if it seems somewhat trivial.
Sit them down and explain why what they did or said can be construed as bullying… and that it is not ok. If you don’t, it is likely to spiral out of control and your child will end up in trouble and likely unpopular.
House Rule #14: Teach Active Listening & Empathy
You may recall that active listening is a term I used earlier when discussing the house rule for kids regarding limiting screen time.
It is not only important to teach a child to listen when they are being spoken to, but to actually hear the words that are being said so as to grasp the true meaning behind them.
Active listening typically involves questions and answers, such as:
If you turn the process of listening into a Q&A of sorts, it will likely be more productive.
Teaching active listening will also instill a sense of empathy in the child, letting them know that what you are saying is important to you.
Maybe your feelings were hurt because they didn’t make you a card for your birthday, even though your husband asked them to?
Maybe you were frustrated with them because you asked them to clean their bedroom multiple times before finally doing it yourself.
Other people’s feelings matter… and teaching your kids to be active listeners can help drive that point home.
House Rule #15: Teach Them the Value of Money
You may have heard your parents tell you once or twice that “money doesn’t grow on trees”.
And maybe you rolled your eyes because you honestly had everything you needed… and most of what you wanted.
Your parents provided for you, it’s true. They didn’t concern you with their finances and likely worked hard to keep a roof over your head… to keep you fed, clothed.
I bet there were times when they even spoiled you.
As children, we rarely stopped to wonder how we got to go on that great vacation? Or where those expensive sneakers came from.
Perhaps your parents both worked. Or one of them had two, even three, jobs.
In some instances, they may have put their own needs and wants on the back burner just to give you what you desired.
My parents did all of these things… but they also taught the value of money as I got older. As far back as I can remember, my brother and I had chores to earn an allowance.
We were told the money was ours to spend as we wished… that we could save it up for something we really wanted, or just go buy ourselves an ice cream cone on a hot day.
Having to work to earn my own money made me place a value on the things I thought I wanted. It forced me to decide if something was really worth spending it on.
Every purchase now had a particular value in my mind. For instance, $20 to spend on a movie and popcorn with a friend held greater worth to me than spending $20 on a tee shirt.
I made my choice.
Start teaching this house rule to your kids by giving them chores and allowance.
Give them a bank to keep it in.
Then start letting them add money from birthdays, the tooth fairy, etc… to the bank.
Finally, work together to help them set a savings goal for a list of things they want.
House Rule #16. Take Care of Your Pets
Whether you had a pet growing up or not, I bet you heard the words, “pets are a lot of responsibility” at least once during that time. From a goldfish, to a dog, pets need to be taken care of in order to thrive… let alone survive.
Owning a pet and involving your children in their care is a vital life lesson that will teach them not to only be responsible for another living thing, but to take ownership of something in general.
Today it’s feeding a guinea pig… but in a few years, it’s providing for a family or overseeing employees at work. If you don’t teach your kids the art of proper supervision and liability for others, you’re doing them a disservice when it comes to where they can go as adults.
House Rule #17. Choose Your Friends Carefully
The truth is, our friends are often a reflection of us. If one attracts or chooses to spend your time with negative, lazy, rude or narcissistic people – there is a good chance others will assume that you are the same way, which may or may not be the case.
Still, more times than not, we judge books by their covers. And while this isn’t the best way to live, it’s a fact that most people don’t take the time to ask “why” when it’s much quicker to just assume. This can impact your social and personal life, as well as your career.
As a parent, you need to teach your child that friendships should always be reciprocal. For instance, when my child comes home talking about a new friend, I almost always ask this: What do you like about this person and what do you get out of this friendship?
The latter is obviously the more important part, yet the first part of the question gets them talking. Sure, we all want a friend who is funny… but are they also able to cheer us up when feeling down?
This goes back to reciprocity, but it also starts your child thinking about what makes a true friendship work. If the friendship is potentially toxic, encouraging them to examine the situation early may help them see the warning signs before going down a rabbit hole they can’t climb out of so easily.
House Rule #18. Do Well in School
Before we delve into this one, let me clarify that I’m not saying your child must get straight A’s as a house rule. That may just not be possible for some kids, whether due to a learning disability or some other issue that comes into play.
What I am saying is that your child needs to do their best in school. This means, asking for help when they need it and not letting laziness get in the way of their success. It also means behaving properly and paying attention in class.
For instance, if they truly don’t understand math and work with a tutor all marking period, but still earn a C+… then that is them doing their best because they never gave up. Perhaps they will improve as time goes on, but the small victories will matter moving forward.
Joining extracurriculars is another way to be an active participant, make friends and earn respect from their peers. Doing well in school means more than getting good grades, it means being well-rounded and always striving to improve.
So far, my husband and I have four children who do very well in school academically. They are also involved in a handful of outside activities – sports, the arts and even religious education. They are busy, which means we are busy… but it makes them better and keeps them out of trouble.
It’s like the saying goes, “idle hands are the devil’s playing”. If you foster an environment where your child is constantly trying to improve and find new outlets of self-expression, they are much more likely to keep that motivation going into adulthood.
House Rule #19. Stay Active
It’s been proven that physical activity not only keeps your body healthy, but your mind sharp.
Today, a frightening number of American adolescents are considered obese. In fact, epidemiologists forecast the total prevalent cases of obesity in the US to increase from 16,882,000 in 2023 to 17,135,000 in 2031 among people aged 5–19 years.
If we can’t control our child’s diet and exercise habits early, they will likely have a very difficult time with self-regulation as they grow. They will also be more prone to bullying and psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety, could arise.
Exercise increases endorphins, which helps with stress, among other things… but it also helps increase confidence. If your child looks good, chances are they will feel good. And if they feel good about themselves, nothing will stand in their way.
If you’re having a tough time getting your child in gear, suggest an activity you can do together. Training for a charity 5K, biking and hiking are great places to start – and will allow them to go at their own pace.
House Rule #20. Develop a Growth Mindset (Dream Big)
If you’re not familiar with the term, a growth mindset is one in which a person believes they can improve themselves with time and experience… and that their efforts will directly impact their success. People who think this way are convinced they can become more proficient at things, and smarter, if they are willing to put the effort in.
Have you ever heard the expression, “things can only get better from here”? Well, that is the mantra of someone with a growth mindset in a nutshell.
This is the complete opposite of someone with a fixed mindset, who often feels that they are simply dealing with the hand life has dealt them when it comes to success. Many believe that they are only as smart as they were born to be… and that their life’s journey will fall within those confines, for better or for worse.
Teaching your child to accept and foster a growth mindset is essentially teaching them to dream big and believe “the sky’s the limit” when it comes to where their life will go! You’ll seem like their biggest cheerleader, without them even realizing you simply provided the tools they need to get ahead on their own.
House Rule #21. Family Always Comes First
Depending on who you ask, you’ll come across people belonging in one of two camps of belief when it comes to family values. Residents of the first camp will tell you that “family is everything” and talk about how they will always be in their corner.
Those in the second will tell you that “family is something you’re born into, whereas friends are the people we choose”. Some of them may even say things such as, “anyone can be a father, but it takes a real man to be a dad”.
Sadly, there are a lot of angry people in this world with mommy or daddy issues and dysfunctional families. But why?
Despite the back and forth arguments, a happy childhood can have a serious impact on adulthood. By putting your child first, and teaching them to do the same, you will directly influence the way they view their life and themselves later on.
In fact, one study suggests that as the primary nurturers of their children – and because they have at least some measure of control over the environments and contexts in which their children are raised – parents have a tremendous impact on whether or not their children grow up into happy adults.
If you constantly assure your child that you love and support them for who they are, and will forgive them for their mistakes, they are more inclined to believe it. They will also be less likely to fall in with the wrong crowd and be there for you one day in return.
Create a relationship with your child in which they would choose you… even if their birth certificate said otherwise. Family first is a house rule that, if executed correctly, is all about love and compassion, which will help create a world of more empathetic and tolerant human beings.
Final Thoughts on House Rules for Kids
Rules are important. The world would be in utter chaos without them.
As adults, we know this to be true.
Our kids, however, tend to live a somewhat sheltered version of reality because we want to protect them… which is understandable. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need to understand the value of rules and what they represent.
Rules aren’t just about doing whatever it is you’re told… they are about living by a good set of values. A moral code.
These rules for kids may seem somewhat basic on paper, but they are actually going to help shape them into thoughtful and functional adults.
Finally, if you want to level up your parenting skills, then check out this resource that will show you how to get your kids to listen WITHOUT yelling, nagging, or losing control.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications, and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization, and product reviews.