The best parenting rule ever saved me.
Efficiency is the Key
Running the household as a single parent was overwhelming. I was struggling to balance work, parenting and the mundane chores of laundry, cooking, cleaning and home repair. I needed more time and more energy. The frequent minor power struggles over household rules were exhausting. I had to think of something to make my life easier. One night it hit me. I only really needed one rule, maybe two.
Best Parenting Rule Ever
The best parenting rule ever is “Respect the Mother.” We then had a discussion about what it means to respect the mother. The rule sounds simple and it is, but it covers a lot of behavior when you think about it.
Don’t Cause Worry
It is my nature and the nature of most mothers to worry about our children. That means a mom needs to know where her kids are, what they are doing, who they are with, and at whose house they’re scheduled to sleep. Back when phones could be set up with quick texts, my son put one in my phone that said simply “status.” If my kids got that text it meant I needed to know where you are, what you are doing, and who you are with. It’s a simple request and not overly intrusive for independent teens. It’s also a subtle reminder “What would your mother think, if she could see you now.”
Do Your Share
Respecting the mother also means pitching in and helping. We were never in a position to have
a household cook or cleaner. This is the case for most families raising children with one parent in the home (and most with two parents in the home). We talked about how, as family members, we do what needs to be done. Everyone pitches in to do the work.
Mom is not another word for servant. The expectation was to do what needed to be done, and get “bonus points”(a pat on the back and a word of appreciation) for noticing what needed to be done and doing it without being asked
Make Good Decisions
negative consequences and create extra work. Some of that extra work usually falls on the
mother, who already has a lot of work to do. I stressed that I understand we all make mistakes,
but asked my kids to please think about what would happen and to make the best decisions
possible. It helps to mention that good decisions give us more time for fun and usually more freedom (something kids value more and more as they get older).
Variation on the Best Parenting Rule Ever: Be Nice to the Mother
I have had clients who are parenting preschoolers ask for advice on the child’s back-talking and defiance. I made a slight modification to the number one rule and suggested they implement the rule as, “Be nice to the mother.” I have had reports that after teaching the child
this simple rule, the parent could often stop defiance by asking, “Are you following the number
one rule?” or “Are you being nice to Mommy?”
Related: 5 Surefire Ways to Stop Whining
Pay Off For the Number One Rule
I knew the number one rule had worked when one of my sons, as a senior in high school,
reported that our house was different than his friends’ houses. “How is that?” I asked.
“We have no rules,” he said.
He explained, “as long as I am respectful and make good decisions I can do
what I want.” And he went on to explain, “making good decisions is usually common
sense—what anyone would do.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. The thought that went through my head was, “Fear not, if you do not make good decisions, there will be less opportunity to do what you want.”
I responded, after a moment of speechlessness, “Yep, that’s true.”
What are your thoughts on the best parenting rule ever? Is there anything you would add when you
explain this rule to your own children
Read about our second and last household rule in Parenting Rule #2.
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Do you need more than just one rule? Check out some of my favorite parenting books.