The Problem with Rules in Parenting

My favorite educator is a former school teacher and public speaker named Harry Wong. He has a series of videos designed to help school teachers proceed. In The First Days of School, Wong shares a number of ways in which a teacher's focus should be on procedures more than rules. What follows are eight principles to teaching that I believe also apply to parenting. As simple as it sounds, my kids will probably be grown and gone before I master these.

*One note of clarification: Neither Wong nor I am suggesting that there is not a place for discipline or rules. Good behavior needs to be rewarded, and bad behavior needs to be corrected. The point is that there is not enough emphasis on helping children succeed in the first place.

  1. The #1 problem in childrearing is not discipline. It is a lack of procedures and routines.

  2. A rule is a dare to be broken. A procedure is a series of steps to be successful.

  3. Discipline concerns how students behave. Procedures concern how things are done.

  4. Discipline has consequences and rewards. Procedures have neither.

  5. A routine is what children do automatically.

  6. Three things are needed to teach procedures: explain (state, model, demonstrate), rehearse (practice), and repeat (re-teach and rehearse to build a routine).

  7. An effective parent manages his/her kids. An ineffective parent only punishes them.

  8. If you spend most of your time correcting behavior, you are not a parent but a zookeeper or prison warden.

Parents, think about these things. Take steps toward helping your children establish procedures and routines in their lives. Both you and they will be the beneficiaries of it!