Seems like common sense right? However, it can be difficult to make rules clear, and it can be difficult for young children to remember all the rules. What are rules for? To keep order in our house and lifestyle, and to remind people to respect each other.
If we make too many rules and try to enforce them all at once, children can be overwhelmed. If we don't make rules and limits clear, children will be confused. It's a delicate balance, and it doesn't work the same way for every child. It's no wonder that many parents struggle with this issue.
It's a good idea to start out with some overall guidelines, or a theme, that
is positive and serves as a reason for the rules. For example: "We love each other, so we respect, help and take care of each other." This becomes the guiding principle for all your rules, something that you can refer back to when clarifying rules or enforcing limits.
The value of an overall guiding principle is that it gives you a platform to teach the rules in the first place. You can't take a toddler and give them a long list of rules for life; no, we teach rules little by little as a child grows up. Children also learn many rules by the example they see around them, however the world can be a confusing place.
Another very important reason for rules is to help our children learn to control their emotions. If 2 year old Susie takes 4 year old Bobby's toy, and then cries when he tries to get it back, and Mom comes running to console Susie, then Bobby is going to want to bop Susie on the head next time Mom's not looking. Bobby probably knows there is a "no hitting" rule, but his anger about the toy overrides the rule. If mom sides with poor little Susie without acknowledging Bobby's concerns, then he will become more angry. However, with children this age we have to keep things clear and simple.
It's not easy to be a parent because we are our children's first and most important teachers. I hope this post has been helpful to you. Please feel free to ask questions or share comments below.