A Sample of Family Household Rules

Mother and child writing on paper
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If you're like most parents, you may struggle to list your household rules off the top of your head. Although you know what behavior is acceptable (and what isn't), labeling your specific expectations may be a little tricky. That's why it's important to create a written list of household or family rules.

With a list of family rules, everyone in the family becomes clear about expected behavior, including what is allowed and what is not. Rules also help kids feel safe and secure. When your rules are clear, you'll be less likely to get into power struggles. Your child's attempts to say, "But, I didn't know!" won't be effective when you remind them of the list of household rules. Learn more about how to create family rules.

Tips for Creating Family Rules

Family rules should include the rules that everyone in the house is expected to follow, including parents. So don't include, “Bedtime is at 7 p.m.,” unless you also plan to go to bed at that time. Your household rules should also be specific to your family's needs and values.

You may also find that you need to revise your list from time to time. Work together as a family to problem-solve specific issues. For example, if you’re noticing that several family members aren’t picking up after themselves, talk about it and see what you can do to better enforce this rule. As your children grow and mature the behaviors you'll want to address will shift as well. Add new rules when necessary.

Sample List of Family Rules

A lengthy list of family rules could become too complicated and confusing, so aim to keep your list short and simple. Here is a sample list of household rules.

Treat People and Property With Respect

These rules may include:

  • Ask permission to borrow other people’s belongings.
  • Do not hurt anyone’s body (no hitting, pushing, or kicking).
  • Do not hurt anyone’s feelings (no yelling, put-downs, or name-calling).

Implement an immediate consequence if this rule gets broken. Time-out or loss of privileges can help kids learn to make better choices. This is a good rule for parents as well as kids as you need to model appropriate behavior and anger control.

Knock on Closed Doors Before Entering

Teach kids about privacy by establishing a rule about knocking on closed doors before entering. This can help reinforce the idea that you should respect other people's space.

Pick up After Yourself

Explain what it means to pick up after yourself. Tell your child to put her dishes in the dishwasher when she's done eating. Or explain that you expect your children to pick up their toys before they get out new toys. This rule enhances household safety and cleanliness and develops good habits for when your children will go on to live independently.

Electronics Curfew

Many families establish rules about electronics. While some families limit screen time to a couple of hours per day, others set rules about what time electronics need to be turned off. Setting a curfew for electronics before bedtime can help develop good sleep hygiene for both children and parents which enables you to get a better night's sleep for health.

Make Amends When You Hurt Someone

Teach kids to take responsibility for their behavior by creating a rule about how to respond if they’ve hurt someone. Sometimes an apology may be enough and at other times, you may need to institute restitution as a consequence.

Tell the Truth

Stressing the importance of honesty will only be effective if you role model the behavior. If you tell your kids to always tell the truth, but claim your 13-year-old is only 12 so you can get a lower-priced movie ticket, your words won’t be effective. Kids can’t tell the difference between “white lies” and other lies so if you’re going to stress the importance of honesty, show that you're honest.

Practice Good Dental and Body Hygiene

Washing hands, brushing teeth, and bathing must be done for good health. Establish these as a rule so your children develop good habits, and don't shirk them yourself.

Attend Family Meetings

Holding regularly scheduled family meetings can help you review the rules, talk about schedules, and make any changes as necessary. While some families may want to schedule a meeting once a week, other families may find that meeting once a month is plenty.

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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.