This is a question so many parents ask themselves: how in heaven’s name can I get my children to behave? Especially when we’re at our wit’s end. Am I right? It’s one thing to authoritatively demand your kids to behave. It’s another story when you can find ways to help them WANT to behave. That’s when the obedience becomes magical.

Three Ideas to Lure your children to want to behave through Family Rules

Have your kids help make up the “Family Rules”

Their input is crucial if you want their “buy-in.” We did this growing up and we were all-in. Well, except when we were breaking those rules. Ha! But I still remember the family meeting where we discussed what makes a happy family. Of course we came to the conclusion that we probably needed to have some semblance of order. People couldn’t go around creating havoc all the time. So then we were asked what rules we thought were most important.

Keep Those Rules Clear, Simple and Positive

At first we all came up with Family Rules like they were going out of style. Everything from “don’t plug in plugs” to “don’t hit.” But eventually my wise parents decided not only to narrow down that list (we ended up with only five all-encompassing rules), but to make them positive. Instead of “don’t yell,” the rule was “peace.” Our Five Family Rules:

  • Peace (this takes into account fighting, hitting, use of the Repenting Bench, etc.)
  • Pegs (we had a peg-board where we put in pegs whenever we finished our jobs)
  • Asking (always ask before you go anywhere so that parents will know where you are)
  • Order
  • Obedience

Why in the world do I still remember these rules after all those years you may ask? Well, not only did my parents have those rules in a frame hanging on the wall where we could see it, they also made up a song to go with them. A little jingle that they could sing whenever we forgot. That forgetting happened a lot, as it does when you’re kids and you’re trying to learn. Hence the engrained rules in my memory!

Set Clear, Natural Consequences When Rules are Broken

And make those consequences easily followed through! If you don’t do your morning jobs before school, you can say bye to hanging out with friends after school (that one whipped my kids into shape I tell you!) If you leave your stuff out the Gunny Bag will surely get hungry.

I think the best followed-through consequence in our family growing up was this: If you broke the rule of Peace (fighting with a sibling) you earned yourself a spot on a hard bench dubbed the “Repenting Bench.” You would sit there until you could tell a parent what YOU did wrong (not what your sibling did wrong…which is usually what you want to do with all your heart!). By that time you were usually humbled enough that you could say you were sorry (part of the deal). The worst part? You had to give that sibling a hug. But you know what? I honestly think that Repenting Bench is what got us so much closer as siblings over the years. Taking ownership of our own mistakes.

Anyway, I already wrote so much about that bench a while back, but it’s pretty important when it comes to Family Rules.

The “Secret Sauce” When It Comes to Kids Wanting to Behave

You can set all the rules in the world. You can make up songs to go with them and plaster them all over your house. You can also be a super authoritative parents and demand respect of those rules. Demand obedience and good behavior. BUT if you want to train your kids to WANT to behave there is something even more important than giving them buy-in to how family rules will go.

My sisters and I recorded a podcast about this “secret sauce” and I want to direct you there for more details about this secret superpower. The podcast is called Discipline: helping kids WANT to behave.

But I’ll spill the beans here too. I think the most important thing you can do to help children want to behave is to create CONNECTION.

When we nurture a connection with our kids it creates a level of respect that makes kids want to behave.

    Shawni's mom connecting with her kids to create a relationship

    My sisters and I talk all about this. How it was in our family growing up, and also about how all these ideas have evolved in own families, what we liked, what we didn’t.

    Connection takes work. And we mess up over and over again.

    Connection can help your children want to behave

    But isn’t it incredible that we can just keep trying? Even when our kids are all grown up?

    Motherhood is tricky

    Creating expectations in a family is sometimes one of the trickiest parts.

    Sending out so much love to everyone out there because YOU CAN DO IT!

    I love that in our podcast Saydi said, “The only way to fail is to give up.”

    And we shared a favorite, “Oh God of second chances, here I am again.”

    I hope listening to this episode will help nudge you with some ideas for your own family as you work to get your own children to want to behave.

    And let us know what you think or add extra ideas over HERE.


    Some ideas to create connection with your kids:

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    1. Thank you so much for this encouragement and wonderful ideas that are simple for families to implement! The positive encouragement really means a lot. I love the idea to help children take ownership of their own mistakes. Thank you!

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