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New Year = New Rules

The new year is a good time to address parenting problems. If you are having the same struggle each day, ask yourself if you have clear rules and a specific plan for how children are to do what is expected. Often family members are not clear and consistent about routines and expectations and rules are not enforced. Read more

  1. What are the benefits for children to have rules and structure at home?


Rules are important to a family. Rules help children feel safe and secure. Rules let children know what to expect, keep children safe and healthy, help family members get along better, and communicate our values to children.


  1. If parents haven’t been strict or had official house rules before, where do you recommend they start?


Parents want to set rules around their values. At calm time, never in the middle of the problem, parents want to decide together on the rules. If there is a reoccurring problem, for example, getting out the door on time in the morning, parents want to think about what rules are needed so expectations are clear and there is a plan that will solve the problem. Once parents have an idea of the rules they should discuss each rule with the children. Make sure the children know the reason for the rule. Parents also want to listen to children’s feelings about the rule and empathize with the feelings.


  1. Do you believe in rewards, like reward charts, or allowance for chores? Why or why not?


We want children to be intrinsically motivated. We don’t think children need to be rewarded for doing what is expected of them.   When children help out, re kind and respectful or do tasks of independence they intrinsically feel good which is a natural reward.  Rewards and reward charts focus on getting something for doing what is expected vs. feeling good inside for doing what is wanted.


All children should have chores or “jobs”. Chores teach children that they need to contribute to the wellbeing of the family, that the family works because everyone has jobs they do. Chores help children to feel valuable and capable. The best way to raise responsible children is to give them responsibilities. Even young children can water plants, turn out lights, bring in mail, feed the pet, etc. We do not need to pay children to do chores. Having chores protects children from a sense of entitlement.


We advocate that children get an allowance when they are old enough to learn about money management. Allowance is not tied to chores but children can earn money for doing extra work for the family.


  1. Do you have ideas of what are some good house rules parents can start with?


Rules are based on our values. Parents want to set rules around:

  • Respect – how we treat people and property and what language is appropriate/respectful
  • Responsibilities – chores, homework, pets
  • Routines – bedtimes, meals, homework
  • Electronics – rules need to be set/reviewed with each new device that comes in the home
  • Safety
  • Health


  1. Do you have 2-4 suggestions for how to make “rules” seem engaging and maybe even fun?


  • Once rules are explained, kids can make a sign with the rules, decorate the sign and sign it
  • Parents can list all the chores that need to be done this week and have kids sign up for chores
  • Parents can put each chore on a card and have kids pick chores out of a hat – this is the chore for the week
  • At chore time, parents can put on music and sing while all family members are doing chores



  1. What do you recommend for enforcing rules and/or punishment if the house rules aren’t followed?


We recommend our ABCD plan of limit setting to enforce the rules:

A – Acknowledge feelings (“I know you are having fun playing ith your toys)

B – Briefly state the rule or limit (“The rule is we need to pick up the toys before we leave”)

C – Give two acceptable choices or ask what a better choice would be (Would you like to start picking up the blocks or the books?)

D – Done/ Detach/ Disengage


When children do not follow the rules, we need to hold children accountable and use logical consequences. Logical consequences are designed to teach and improve future behavior. We do not believe children need to suffer in order to learn.



  1. Is there a certain age group where you feel rules start to click or work better?

Rules help children feel safe and secure so the earlier you start the better. Toddlers can begin to know the rules of the family. But it is never too late to begin setting rules or make a new rule. The key is being consistent with the limit setting. Rules click when parents are consistent with the rules and limits are enforced in a firm and kind manner.




As co-founders of Parenting Perspectives, Karen Jacobson, MA, LMFT, LCPC and Lauren Bondy, LCSW, help parents enhance their parenting tools to promote healthy development and nurture the unique potential of their children.  As therapists and mothers, they provide counseling to parents, children, couples and families.  As keynote speakers they regularly speak on a wide variety of parenting topics including: power struggles, self-esteem, sibling rivalry, discipline, friendship, gifted and school issues.   They offer a one-of-a-kind multi-week course called “Becoming a Conscious Parent:  Tools & Principles for Parenting from Your Heart”  They have appeared on ABC-7’s “Connect with Kids”, as well as radio appearances with WGN and Hay House Radio.  Visit to get information on the upcoming classes an private parent coaching. Karen has a private practice in Chicago and Lauren has a private practice in Northbrook.




It is hard to watch your child fall, get hurt, struggle and make mistakes.  It is hard to see them feel sad, scared or not good enough. A parent I work with recently said, “I need more bubble wrap.” She wanted to protect her kids by wrapping them in bubble wrap so they would not bruise or break.  The wish was for bubble wrap to provide safe passage through the journey of childhood, adolescence and beyond. Today, many well-meaning parents are layering the bubble wrap in many areas of their children’s lives. They are hovering, doing things for children that they are capable of doing themselves, monitoring their every move, jumping in when their children experience conflict or adversity, giving praise and trophies not for excellence but for expected behavior or mere participation.  In addition, they are rescuing their children from the natural consequences of their own behavior and putting a lot of time, money and effort in an attempt to ensure their child’s success.  All of these parental behaviors are attempts to protect their children and foster self-esteem and happiness.

Unfortunately, their attempts are misguided. Not only is it impossible to protect our children but it is not in their best interest to be protected from the inevitable adversity in life. Children will get hurt both physically and emotionally. They might break a bone, be left out of a friendship gathering, they may struggle academically, they may forget their homework and receive an F or need to stay in for recess. Some children may even experience something tragic. Some, will experience uncomfortable consequences due to their own unkind behavior or not following the rules. Although these experiences are never wanted, they will likely happen. In most cases, they are valuable opportunities for children to learn about themselves.  They learn that they can handle or manage life when it is very sad or uncomfortable.

When children get hurt, struggle or make mistakes, they need a soft place to land. They need time and space to feel, think, process and learn from the experience. Your family is the bubble wrap. The bubble wrap of family insulates children with love and acceptance. When parents allow children a safe space to express their pain, humiliation, and sadness as well as a space to figure out how to navigate and problem solve, it helps soften the inevitable challenges of life.   When parents hold children accountable, they learn how to fail, struggle, try again and make good decisions. In this case, children are learning to take care of themselves—they are learning to be resilient.  In essence, they are developing their own bubble wrap that can only occur with your love.  Parents are not preventing the fall or hurt but they are preventing the damage that can come when children don’t develop the ability to bubble wrap and take care of themselves. For when children learn this, they have a valuable cushion for life.   They come to realize their inner strength, find their voice, and know their resilience and self-competence.  We need to shift from thinking we need to protect kids from all negative experiences to creating a family that provides love, support, calm, acceptance and guidance. This is the bubble wrap that children really need.

If your family could use a tune up in order to become a protective layer of bubble wrap, join us at our upcoming parenting class!

By Karen Jacobson, MA, LCPC, LMFT