Open Your Toolbox
We’ve said it before – house rules are a powerful tool in the ADD/ADHD home (actually any home). They build consensus, provide structure, clarify expectations, and serve as a visual reminder of expected behavior. As a bonus, they provide an opportunity for the parent not to be the bad guy all the time. Yeah — you can actually consider THIS a self-care tip, too! (See my blog on getting your kids to do what you want.)
Here’s how you do Set Up House Rules that Work:
1. Get organized.
Schedule a time. Make sure everyone is available practically and emotionally. It may not make sense to schedule in the evening when meds have worn off and the family is tired. Get a large sheet of paper or poster board and some colorful markers. Spend some time before the meeting getting clear on what you want to say and a few ideas for rules. Note: I’d also recommend you spend a few minutes ahead of time getting on the same page with anyone who is co-parenting with you.
2. Have a family meeting.
Explain what house rules are (a list of things that indicate how we will behave and work together as a family). Start by brainstorming the list – everyone goes around and says one thing until the ideas are exhausted. Frame the statements in a positive tone rather than what we “shouldn’t do”, e.g. “We are kind to each other” rather than “Don’t be mean.” Note: an important rule of brainstorming is that all ideas are acknowledged and captured – in the next step, you will narrow down the list.
3. Agree to the list.
Discuss any areas of concern. Shorten the list to items that can be agreed to by everyone. Make sure everyone is clear on what each rule means. You may need to do some modeling here, or change the language of the rules to assure that everyone understands. For example, at our house we spent a lot of time talking about what it means to “respect” each other. We needed to make sure everyone agreed on the definition.
4. Post the list.
Put it somewhere visible. Have everyone sign and date it to demonstrate consensus.
5. Pick one thing to focus in on.
This is important. Our list has over 25 house rules on it. Perhaps you choose the item that you think needs the most work, and has the most buy-in. Tackle it for a few weeks until you have it down cold. Trying to do too much at once can lead to the list quickly falling into the recycle bin, so set yourself up for success.
6. Make this fun for you, and for the family.
If it feels like a chore, then it probably is. Wait until you have the energy and motivation to try it, and get your kids involved to support the process. It’s a great way to change behavior in your family, and take care of yourself!
Now, you don’t want to create house rules for everything, but some well-placed rules can really take the pressure off and allow your family to work together as a team. I guess that’s the most important part to keep in mind. The purpose of house rules is for everyone to know what is expected and buy-in to participation. They should serve your family as a tool for improved communication and relationships.