What are some good and clear family rules that are general but not too general? I have trouble with rules like respect others because I feel like it's not clearly defined so it feels unfair and arbitrary and maybe the kids don't know better. Also my husband would do better with something very well-defined. So is it better to have a bunch of specific rules that probably don't cover everything or a few general rules? And how can you communicate them clearly either way? (Kids 2 & 7.)
This is a great question, @do_better_2019!
So first, you're absolutely right that kids do need clear rules. I even recommend that once you decide what they are, you make them VISIBLE and post them somewhere where they'll see them.
I also recommend that you start with about 3-5 rules. The reason is that
a.) you need to make sure you're following through with these rules, and if you have too many, you're less likely to be consistent and
b.) if you have too many rules, you're setting the kids up for failure.
The good news is that once the kids become clear on those rules, you can add more in and they're more likely to listen to them because they know you'res serious about them and they can be successful.
So how do you decide the rules? I'd start by considering the negative behaviors that you're seeing most frequently that have the biggest impact right now. You may also consider your parenting values (what you want to pass down to your children) and turn those in to rules. (For example, in our house our main value is "respect," and we have rules about how we speak and listen to each other.)
I'll give you examples below, but I also want to suggest that when you create rules, you indicate what you WANT your kids to do, not what they DON'T want them to do. Keep in mind too that just because you've set these rules, that doesn't mean that kids automatically know how to follow them. (Remember, that if they're missing the tools to be successful -- including handling their Yuck effectively -- they won't be able to do these things. You'll have to do some teaching , which is another reason you don't want too many rules!)
So here are some examples:
1.) We say "please" and "thank you" when we ask for something.
2.) When we are angry, we use our words [or whatever else you've taught them to to] rather than yelling or being mean to others.
3.) We wait until someone else is finished talking before we talk.
I hope that gives you a place to start, but please let me know if you have more questions!