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It isn’t “Mean” to Have Rules for Your Kids


This comment was left on a facebook post where I stated that I am setting up a daily password for the internet, to only be given out after work and chores are done.  Wow. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Setting up my internet so it can only be accessed when we have our free time because our teenager has terrible time management issues makes me “mean spirited, rude, and disrespectful” and “smacks of training your kids like dogs”…….Seriously?

Since when does it make you a bad parent if your home has rules for work before play?  I have a teenager that is easily distracted and trying to get her to complete her one simple chore can take three hours (its a 30 minute job) and then she has no time to do anything she wants to do. We have tried gently (and then not so gently) reminding her.  We have tried just letting it go so she could see the natural consequences of not completing her tasks- which since I get grossed out and clean up for her doesn’t work very well.   It is frustrating and we all suffer for it.  You know what works?  This.  She gets her stuff done because she knows when she is done she gets to do the things she wants to do.  This is a great compromise. No one (Even me- this isn’t a dictatorship) uses the internet until chores are done.

B went on to say that “A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t treat your spouse or your best friend a particular way, you shouldn’t treat your kids that way either.”  Really?  My husband works and then comes home to play. Same principle. If he played hooky from work because he felt like doing something else we’d really be in a bind.  And the flip side is that although we *do* treat our kids as adults to be, they AREN’T yet adults.

Children need gentle guidance.  My home isn’t a dictatorship, but we do have to have some boundaries. I have a daredevil three year old that thinks it would be a great idea to sit on the roof of the car while we drive around the neighborhood.  He wants to swing from the ceiling fan and climb the curtains.  I’m certainly not going to sit back and let him climb the walls because he feels like it.

We aren’t mean parents.  Our home is quite laid back.  So laid back that quite often you might find us napping if you dropped by for an impromptu visit.  We spend most of our day following the interests of our children.  Much of our time is spent laughing, playing and exploring the world.  However there are some lessons that we feel are too important for our children to miss.  I think it is important to have the ability to finish a project before you run off and play.  And since they are struggling with that, I made it easier by making it so we all have to complete our work before we get to have our fun.

31 Responses to It isn’t “Mean” to Have Rules for Your Kids

  1. Don’t worry about the naysayers!! Children are NOT born with time management skills or impulse control. It is OUR jobs as parents to teach this to them (and OH how I wish my parents had taught me this when I was a teenager). You are a good Mom. We all have to do what works for our families. <3

  2. You should not have even replied to this poster, they succeeded in hurting your feelings, and making you doubt yourself. As a witch you should know GOOD or BAD you give energy to people…do NOT waste time or words on people like this…Move on! And in the future do not let them get their five minutes of fame DELETE the post.

    • No- my feelings are not hurt! I know I’m not a bad mom just because one person thinks so. LoL. I wanted to (and succeeded) to use her words to open a dialogue. I hear so often this sort of thing when I talk about the few boundaries my kids have, and I want people to know how/why I do the things I do. :) Her negativity is not sitting with me. And honestly? I kind of appreciate the occasional asshat-ery because it certainly gets people talking!

  3. So, someone out there seriously has NO limits for their kids? Those kids do their share of caring for the home, engaging in mindful activities, and chooses only responsible activities for play time? I am amazed. Good for them. Now, if only this parent could learn to not make judgments on the 99.98% of the parents who DON’T have these “amazing” children and are doing our best to parent them anyways.

    • More than likely that parent with the “amazing kids” is only a few weeks away from getting a phone call from the desk sergeant at the local police HQ – where her “amazing kids” are getting the royal treatment on their way to their first visit to juvie.

  4. I feel bad for her children. They are going to be in for a rude awakening when they enter the real world where Mommy isn’t there to let them do whatever they want while she wipes their behinds and butters their toast as they play another round of video games.

    You go on with your awesome parenting self!

  5. I think the password reset idea is great. Totally stealing it. My bubs only 6 months old, but this is a fantastic idea when we do eventually allow him to use a computer. (On that topic, Joni, when did you let your kids? I’m torn because its a great teaching tool, but also a great time waster…) I want my son to excel at computer usage (and my huz can’t wait to teach him a programming langage, but when… hmm.

    • I’ll let Joni answer for when her kids gained access, but as for when you should let them “discover” it, my first thought is “whenever they show an interest while you’re using it”. I understand your huz wanting to teach programming languages, but I’d put a bridle and bit on that horse before it takes off. Your huz’ enthusiasm is wonderful, but doesn’t necessarily translate to your child being interested. My father has always been an avid fisherman – I can’t stand it despite the fact that fishing was one of only 2 ways dad and I ever spent time together. The other was chess – which I eventually mastered well enough to beat my dad (who is no slouch, and once was unofficially ranked #3 in Kansas). Let your child come to it on his own, if at all.

  6. Wow. What a horrid mother I must be then. Honestly, it’s all about finding out your kidlets currency, and that changes over the years. What’s more, I believe that you are teaching your kids a very valuable lesson here. Pleasure after all responsibilities have been met. You know that saying that people like to say that they’d rather have a messy house and happy kids or some drivel like that? Cow Patties! I say. I’ve seen happy kids in tidy homes. And kids with limits, kids that have met their responsibilities and therefore earned their screen time are happier kids than kids who never have to earn anything.

    Kudos to you! You are doing a great job and some day, far in the future, the young lady in questions will be a mother herself telling her own kids that she isn’t the only ‘mean’ mommy around, but learned her values from a really great lady, her own mom!

  7. I wish someone would put a password on MY computer so I couldn’t check Facebook until I’d done some chores. My house would be much cleaner. :)

  8. We have always limited screens. They are a privilege and not a right. This means if you don’t do what you gotta do (put your stuff away, keep the bathroom clean, follow directions, be safe), you don’t get to do what you wanna do. Just like that. And you know what? Even after six days of no screens for no checks, my oldest didn’t die from it. She didn’t require intensive psychological counseling, and I don’t expect to be paying for any in the future. :)

  9. I personally think that this is an amazing idea! I saw a similar post about a basket with a price to pay for getting your items back once Mom picks them up. The facebook poster had posted the photo as an example of what a terrible parent this is that chose to do this, and if they didn’t want to pick up toys, they shouldn’t have had children. Which I think vastly misses the point. It isn’t about not wanting to pick up after our children, or allow them to do what they would love to do (my teen would spend all day reading or drawing if I allowed her to). It’s about teaching our children responsibility. If I choose to do it using a penalty basket to save my sanity (really – if I have to tell my children one more time to pick that THING up, I’m going to lose it!), then I’m going to go the route that allows me to be a sane parent with time to spend how *I* want to spend it, instead of constantly battling my children over how they spend their time. If the internet doesn’t get used by anyone until all the chores are done, so be it. I cannot do whatever I want until MY work is done. That’s the way it is in the adult world. You are a blessing Joni – keep at it. Your response to the post, by encouraging open conversation, is a much better way of dealing with it than just deleting (as I would have done).
    Now I need to go find that basket photo and post the response I should have posted in the first place….

  10. Wait, what? The BF’s brother and his wife don’t set rules for their kid, and at 2.5 years the runt is already so annoying that they will push it on someone else during family gatherings so they can relax. (I once got into an argument with the father for telling the child, “No!” while I was working in the kitchen.)

    Every society needs rules. I think it is important to explain to kids why the rules exist, and to show them that there are also rules for adults as well, and then just stick with a system that works. Home is where children learn to live in a group and “function” as a social being, so if the parents miss this learning step to avoid conflict (and that is all the comment you quoted seems to be about), they set their kids up for failure later in life.

  11. So glad you decided to talk about this!

    It’s nice to see parents actually parenting and setting boundaries so we all don’t end up with yet another generation of kids that think they deserve everything without having to do any work. Your tactics are not manipulation they are teaching a valuable skill needed in the real world. I for one applaud your parenting skills!

    THANK YOU for raising children that will be someday be appreciated, valuable, adults in our communities!

  12. I aggree kids need rules. In fact I think kids know you are really paying attention to them and love them by setting rules to help them learn.
    We have computer passwords and on the kids account we set up a time frame that they can and can’t log onto the computer.
    I constantly have my friends telling me that I run “a really tight ship”. Which is so funny because I’m usually pretty laid back. I do have expectations. I expect my children to follow our family rules and be respectful. If they don’t do that then they lose out on privalages or have natural consequences.

    • People tell me that I have high expectations for my daughter & that I’m strict, too. The funny thing is, my daughter *offers* to help me clean things when she sees me doing chores & sometimes just starts without even offering. Sometimes she’ll do a chore herself without me prompting her at all. My daughter is 5. To me, that is amazing. She doesn’t do it because I’m going to punish her if she doesn’t ….. she does it to help me and to make me happy. (And sometimes she does it so that she can get a treat out of me. :-D)

      But most days, we’re pretty laid back too. If I’m really disgusted by a mess, it’s my own fault because I’ve been laid back for too many days in a row and haven’t done anything about it yet.

      Also, having studied psychology and childhood/adolescent development, I can say that kids NEED rules and boundaries. There have been enough studies and such done to prove that children who don’t have rules will continue exhibiting unruly and even unsafe behavior until they find the boundary. Kids who don’t have rules also express in various ways that they don’t feel loved because their parents don’t care enough to set rules for them.

  13. I’m a huge fan of positive, gentle parenting but can’t stand when people think that basically means letting your kids run amok! I totally agree with your method.

    And honestly, if my other half skipped work in favour of surfing the ‘net? You bet I’d lock down the router/wifi.

  14. Wow.. Excuse me much?! I felt better as a kid for rules that were set up for me to succeed. An authortative rule is more a do what I say not what I do situation, its designed to put you in your place and keep you there. I easily know the difference since my mother’s parenting styles changed drastically depending on her level of depression. We spent alot of time doing power struggles. These were not good times for me.
    Rules that were set up that allowed me to succeed, felt like self competition, where I was running the marathon and winning.

    Its important for children to learn about rules. Bosses, college professors, and legal professionals dont care if you dont feel like following the rules. They expect you to work within the system. Learning to follow rules also shows you how to safely break them.

    I remember seeing your post about this before comments were posted. I LOVED the idea. Smart, and non combative! I love this.

  15. I completely agree with you! Unfortunately, I’ve stopped following most of the AP/peaceful parenting sites because there are so many women who seem to think that if you have *any* boundaries, you are a bad parent and couldn’t possibly be peaceful or AP. It’s sad to see, really.

    Personally, I want my daughter to grow up capable of taking care of her own needs. Since those skills are not inborn, it’s my job to teach her. And sometimes that means that I do things that other parents disapprove of. Luckily for me, I’m not a parent for the popularity vote. Also, I’ve seen a lot of behavior from children whose parents have decided to follow the ‘no boundaries/consequences’ path of parenting and I have not liked the view.

    Bottom line: you are providing what your children need to become capable adults. I applaud that; especially as you are so open about it and continually have to deal with people who openly scorn your parenting choices. And, you won’t end up with a 40 year old who doesn’t know how to keep a house clean ….

  16. Dear Joni,

    My neice is 17, I believe. Her parents did not teach her ANYTHING about responsibility, kindness, or good conduct. She didn’t learn until 16 that a paper bag with canned goods in it will rip unless you pick it up carefully and support the bottom. That same day was the first time anyone had asked her to do anything resembling turning off her Ipod and helping someone who needed it.

    She now lives in a condemned house with a drug addict, having A/C in only 1 room, does drugs, drinks, has no running water, and has several hundreds of dollars in bills she can’t pay. Mind you, she emancipated herself, so this is all of her own doing.

    Don’t listen to the naysayers. You are doing just fine, and have been an inspiration to many of us parents with young children. Responsible Parenting FTW!!!


  17. I was just bashed on Cafemom the other day because I allowed my DD to learn a lesson the hard way. She’s suffered for her consequences. Evidently children are “too young” to suffer consequences and it was my job to wrap her in bubble wrap and make sure she didn’t get hurt.

    Sorry but when I warn my child that they are choosing to do something that will get them hurt and they do it anyway, I feel its a good lesson and move on.
    Not that I would allow her to do something that could have lasting damage or life threatening, but when its something minor and she can learn from it, have at it. I’ll be waiting on the other side with medication and an I told you so.

  18. I saw this on facebook and thought it was quite funny that someone didn’t like the idea enough to call you mean. I think it’s a very good idea. Work before play. I should probably do something like that myself but I get too caught up with my 3 and 1 year olds.

  19. I don’t see why the person would have an issue with it not like you are spanking her or any of the other things some have issues with. Each child is individuals and some need more and some need less structure then others. I’m happy for you all found a way to get her to do her work with as little drama as possible. I say ‘well done mom’.

  20. PFFFT. It’s your Internet. You pay for it. If your daughter was an adult and didn’t get her work done, she would be fired and not have money to pay for internet service. Not to mention, the internet isn’t something your daughter needs to thrive – It isn’t like you’re denying her of food or something. There is such a thing as balance, between gentle parenting and raising spoiled ass kids, and it sounds like you’ve got it just right.

  21. I’m going to join the others in saying that B is just wrong. My former best friend used to tell me how hard it was for her to understand how to navigate life because her parents let her figure things out for herself before she had the maturity and experience to do so. Give your gorgeous kids a smooch and let the haters hate. Blessings to you and your family!

  22. Love it!

    I even nag DH if I catch him slacking during a “work” time. We have two small kids and two full-time working parents. If we slacked off anytime we wanted, NOTHING would get done. And I would lock myself out of a computer or game if that meant getting enough chores done that the messiness of the week doesn’t turn me into a raving lunatic.

    Oh, and my mom got DS a handheld game system. He’s 6. And was determined to be on the autism spectrum through the schools. We had to take it away because he would shove his 2 yo sister out of the way to get to it before DH could redirect him. My mom said I was disrespectful of her gifts. But it’s MY home, MY family, MY children and OUR harmony that is at stake here. I decide what is and is not appropriate for my children.

    I frequently tell DH to stop saying that DS can do something when he’s X yo. We don’t know what his maturity level will be. It could be sooner, it could be later. We have to judge our children by what they are capable of, then push them just a little more for growth.

    Don’t let anyone tell you how to work your family. Period. You are only accountable to you (and your children’s future – no pressure!).

  23. I wish my mom had done that with the tv when I was younger. Then I may have graduated. You are doing great! Know of any way to block the Internet but leave word available?

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