Ground rules

I watched as my daughter came out of her bedroom with a frown and a pout on her face...


She stood there, on the landing with her arms crossed.

“Shan’t!” she stormed.

Her mother stood in front of her, “Meri, I need you to go back into your room and into bed.”

“I don’t want to! That’s not fair!”

Clare looked at me and shook her head. “Daddy,” she said, “Will you help me? Meri is being very difficult and won’t go to bed.”

Reluctantly, I walked up to my daughter and double teamed with my wife to get her settled down.

After, the trauma of a difficult bedtime, Clare and I sat down with a huge sigh of relief.

“She’s playing up more and more. Sometimes she just doesn’t respect my authority.” Clare said sadly. “She used to be as good as gold but the last few months there’s a flashpoint between us almost every day.”

I nodded. Lost in thought.

“And as for Arun, he’s as good as gold at home but he’s playing up at school.” Clare shook her head.

“I think it’s time for some ground rules,” I said. “Let me have a think and I’ll draft some tomorrow and we can discuss them. We’ll put them up somewhere visible that will remind us of them so that we make sure they are always at the forefront of our minds.”

The next morning, before starting work I spent half an hour writing up some rules for behaviour.

Later that week, Clare and I were standing in the kitchen, cooking our evening meal.

“Did you get the chance to look at the rules?” I asked.

“I’ve got them here,” she said. She looked at them carefully, “I think I already do the stuff in the left hand column but I need to work on the stuff on the right.”

“Yes, and I’m the other way around. I do the stuff on the right well but need to make sure I focus on the stuff on the left hand column.”

The rules were written in two columns – the one on the left said” Things to make sure they know they are loved and get the attention they need to develop.” It has things like, “put aside phones for 1 session with them every day”, “praise should outnumber criticism by at least 2:1”, “make at least an hour of quality time with them every day.”

The right hand column said “Establish boundaries and a framework for discipline”. It had things like “Communicate clearly – make eye contact, touch their shoulder or arm, use polite but firm language, go down to their level.”

They were rules for us, as parents, not for the children. In the hurly burley of everyday life with both of us having busy jobs, somewhere along the line we had forgotten the basics of parenting. Weren’t consistently doing the basics right and we needed to reset, refocus and renew our parenting efforts.

We needed to set some ground rules. After all, if we didn’t have consistent rules, how could we expect our children to follow the ones we set for them?


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