Linda Lewis Griffith

Hey, parents: Here's how to make rules your kids will follow

Parents are continually bombarded with tough decisions about discipline, San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says.
Parents are continually bombarded with tough decisions about discipline, San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says. Detroit Free Press

My recent column, “When should kids get their first smartphone?,” generated lots of discussion.

One woman even told me, “I’m going to cut it out and save it for my son to use when his children are older.”

But cellphones aren’t the only child-rearing challenge. Parents are continually bombarded with tough decisions and must often create policies from scratch without relying on past experience, generational input or bodies of research.

Below are nine guidelines to assist parents in making those uncomfortable calls.

A few suggestions: Gather data. Read books. Listen to experts. And learn what people in the know have to say about each problem. (One of my go-to resources is the American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aap.org/en-us/Pages/Default.aspx)

Talk with other parents. Find moms and dads whose values and behaviors match your own and hear what they’ve done about similar situations. You don’t have to follow all recommendations exactly. Pick and choose which are the best fit.

Understand your child. Each boy or girl is unique and requires varying measures of oversight and discipline. While it’s sometimes possible to have a household-wide policy, it’s okay to tighten or loosen the reigns as individual situations warrant.

Involve kids in the decision. You want them to be invested in the process. Explain what you’re trying to accomplish (i.e. monitor children’s online accounts) then ask for their opinions. Of course, the ultimate decision is in your hands.

Make rules crystal clear. Keep them brief and consider posting them in a place for all to see. Vague rules indicate a lack of clarity and adult conviction and decrease the likelihood of compliance.

Your child may not agree with your decision. On some issues, kids get a voice. At other times, Mom and Dad call the shots. Remember you’re the leader of the household; it’s your job to do what you think is best.

Only enact rules you can enforce. Lack of oversight encourages deceit and sets kids on a quest to outsmart their folks. Make sure you have the time and ability to do it right.

Never tolerate deception or lying. If you suspect that youngsters are being untruthful, remove privileges and/or access to devices. Gradually allow them to rebuild trust via appropriate attitude and behavior and ultimately regain privileges that were suspended.

Change rules as needed along the way. Nothing’s cast in concrete. If you identify areas that need finetuning, go ahead and make adjustments.

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