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WebMD Expert Discussion: Letting Kids Make the Rules

“Kids today -- they think they make the rules!”

Have you ever said that? Well, maybe your kids should make the house rules, or at least some of them. That’s the surprising suggestion from guest parenting expert Tanya Altmann, MD, in the WebMD online discussion Healthy Family Routines.

Children are more apt to follow rules if they have a hand in making them, Altmann says. She adds that holding weekly family meetings to set up rules is a great way for kids to learn responsibility and accountability. They’re also a good time for families to communicate without distractions, so no cell phones allowed (for parents as well as kids).

Here are Altmann’s tips:

  • Make short, simple, and positive rules: “Use your indoor voice,” rather than “Don’t yell.”
  • Write down the rules and post them where everyone can see. Even if some of your kids are too young to read, having them visible is a reminder of the rules, especially if they played a part in creating them.
  • Revisit the rules regularly at family meetings to update them or make changes.

Family meetings don’t have to be just for making rules, Altmann points out. A regular weekly family meeting is a great way for everyone to reconnect. Go around the table and let kids talk about what they liked and didn’t like that week and what they’d like to change for next week. Then leave the agenda open to talk about upcoming events or family plans, as well as rules.

Make family meetings fun, Altmann suggests. Try finishing them with a treat or game.

One mom with both young and adult kids says that family meetings have proven very successful in her house. Her kids have helped to create family rules about privacy, chores, and fair allowances. And one of her adult children recently called a family meeting to help resolve a money dilemma faced by another child.

Do your kids make some of the rules? How do you know if you’ve let the kids go too far?

Discussion led by Tanya Altmann, MD Guest Expert
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Guest Expert What is a guest expert?

Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP, is a best-selling author, a working mother, and a UCLA-trained pediatrician, practicing in Southern California.

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