The Rules Of My House

It would be great if our kids just listened!

We have a big problem today because we live in a culture that promotes yelling and screaming at kids as effective parenting. Children should be seen, not heard, is a phrase commonly passed down throughout history.

If your childhood was like mine, you were raised in a family where your dad worked, and mom took care of the kids and house; sounds strange, doesn’t it? As a child, I had rules, and my parents assumed I should know what they were. They would tell me the rules, and I would nod my head, but I didn’t think about what they meant, and of course, I broke many rules.

I am sure at one time or another; you heard dad say, “this is my house, and I make the rules.”

Through years of reading and research, I found numerous better ways to have my kids follow “the rules.” 

When I started to examine my home, I realized that the more I tried to control things, the crazier things got—repeating the same negative patterns over and over again.

Now don’t get me wrong, you need rules; I have some in my home. The key here is, how do those rules get enforced?

If your parenting approach right now is through intimidation, you need to make changes. Yelling and screaming when your child doesn’t follow orders will not help. Your child cannot be receptive to demands because they don’t have the ability to learn or absorb information in these moments.

The key here is to be effective, so you and your child solve problems together instead of building up more resentment and producing more failures. You can continue to yell at your kids, or you can try to solve the problem. 

You learn to be proactive and try to prevent the conditions that build-up to these battles beforehand. Stop being reactive and start responding in ways that will benefit you and your child.

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the expectations.

—Oliver Wendell Holmes

I genuinely believe every father wants to be connected to their child but doesn’t have the tools to accomplish these challenging and uncomfortable tasks. I will admit it is something I still find challenging every day.

With traditional parenting, this means the parent always wins, and the child always loses. If you are continually blaming your child when things go wrong, you will not find solutions to why your child is misbehaving and only feed into more pain and frustration. 

One big fundamental flaw I see in parenting is the father’s lack of credibility. They hold the child to standards that most adults would fail to achieve. When you demand your child behave appropriately without actually putting in the effort to make them understand, you reveal a lack of empathy.

It would help if you had reasonable expectations of your child’s capabilities. If they fail to meet those expectations, you need to re-examine your approach to achieve specific standards.

Acknowledging that this is your problem and not your child’s problem will help to find solutions. So many times, we put the burden of solving complex problems on the child. With bad behavior, it is the parent’s job to help the child change course.

Your child’s biggest dilemma should be deciding what book they are going to read before bed.

Once you take responsibility, you will start to find real solutions. Instead of heightening conflicts, you are trained to de-escalate the situation. Instead of spending countless hours fighting about brushing their teeth or getting ready for bed, you can find creative ways to convince them to get the tasks done.

Now, I know it would be so simple if they just listened and did what we said. Of course, you would feel like an accomplished dad if you had no complaints or resistance every time you had a request.

So why do we keep repeating the same patterns and letting the same mistakes happen over and over again?

It is simple. You were conditioned as a child to follow orders and not question authority. How could you possibly have the knowledge, experience, or understanding to coach a child to success that were never taught to you?

There is hope. For the last decade, I have discovered ways to connect with my kids instead of building distance. It has allowed me to think more clearly when going through their different phases of life. I don’t need to be overbearing or have personal attachments to their behaviors because deep down, I know they are on a virtuous path.

What I did learn is they needed extra attention, and things explained properly. I also started to understand how I gained credibility with them by not yelling and raising my voice or threatening them to be heard.

It sounds so simple now, but it took many years for me to understand these things. I knew deep down they didn’t understand what respect was, but yet I always felt disrespected. I knew they could easily do what I was asking, but they acted as if it was impossible.

I made a promise that this was something I was going to succeed at, no matter how many parenting books I needed to read. I wouldn’t get discouraged from the countless hours I spent explaining to my son why he needs to buckle up in his car seat.

As I started reading parenting books, I realized I wasn’t parenting. I was trying to make my kids not embarrass me and make it as easy as possible. I wasn’t thinking about how my decisions and actions affected my child, who needed me to be a reliable dad.

The rules in my home changed.

First, I understood my kids weren’t just mine to control. Underneath those grass-stained clothes and runny noses, they were actually pretty cool little people. They had cool ideas, talked a lot when I listened, and had the wildest imaginations I’ve ever heard.

I realized the more I listened, the more my kids listened. It sounds ridiculous, but it was true.

We all want to enjoy the pleasures of instant gratification and having our needs met instantly, but connecting with my kids wasn’t going to be a quick fix.

If I wanted a connection, I realized there would be some chaos in my home. My kids would need to be free to play and not always be restricted to taking risks, even if we had to change some of the rules.

They wanted to jump off the top of the couch. I didn’t stop them because it could be dangerous. I put pillows and cushions on the floor, hopefully in the right spots.

My children were no longer seen as troublesome or a burden in my life but inspired me to be the best man I could be. I realized that having self-control and mental clarity was just as crucial to being a strong father as going to the gym. I added another essential component in my life to becoming a better man. 

I started with some easy things first. I would no longer tell my kids to say thank you. I would make sure every time I had an opportunity to say thank you, and my kids heard, I set a good example. Sure enough, over time, those clever little humans started to get it.

If they did something wrong or hurt someone, I wouldn’t demand they say sorry. I wanted them to know why it was wrong, and it is a part of being a human to make mistakes, and they could look to correct it next time. They now had a few different tools to help prepare them to deal with others instead of just mimicking a word.

Did I force them to share? I didn’t make them give up things they enjoyed at the expense of another. There is nothing honorable about diminishing my child’s pleasure to please others. My child was not immoral because he didn’t share. It taught him about ownership and that his preferences should be respected.

If my kids watched the television, I wouldn’t just snatch the remote from their hands and put a show on I wanted. I would ask and say please. Even if they didn’t give it to me, I wouldn’t take it away because I am the dad, I gave them the power to decide. When they were ready, they handed over the remote and provided input on what we should watch.

I didn’t force them to give me hugs. I made sure I was the guy they wanted to hug. Teaching them that their bodies were theirs, and they had a choice to who they gave affection. I would tell relatives, no coerced affection with my kids. I wanted my child’s needs to be respected now, so they had a good understanding when someone disrespected them in the future.

You can’t force your child to be good and always do what you think is the right thing. The fact is you probably never thought of things this way and didn’t realize you were cultivating undesirable actions.

All these little things compound over time to shape and mold your child to become a respectful, considerate, and decent human being. Stop focusing your energy on behaviors and disobedience, and you will have more time to enjoy your child’s transformation.

Your job is to create a confident child who is happy with who they are and want nothing more than to share their joy with you.

It takes time and effort to repair things and promote happiness. You will spend less time defending your frustrations and anger when things go wrong. The examples you set for your child will create long-lasting bonds.

In time, you will experience a greater sense of fatherhood and more clarity on your role as a father. Take pride in the accomplishments and share your progress with other fathers.

Right now, we need fathers to be leaders and providers.

We need fathers to lead their kids in becoming capable, respectful, and healthy adults.

We need fathers to provide stability, balance, and compassion when things go wrong.

Fatherhood is masculine.