Expectations with kids can seem like a mile long list. But family rules should be short and sweet. Expectations may ebb and flow based on time, place, who is present, what is developmentally appropriate, and other external (and internal) factors. But your family RULES should be constant. They should be the foundation from which everything else flows. So what makes good foundational rules?
Here's my list:
1- Non-violent, Respectful Communication
Non-violent communication is essential for adults and children. Teach children how to express themselves in a healthy way. Encourage kind words & "I" statements, avoid manipulation and intimidation, be honest/trustworthy with your words, respect physical space boundaries, AND remember that communication is a two-way street- LISTEN non-judgmentally!
2- A willingness to problem-solve together
Involve children in the conversation and solutions as age appropriate. Be open-minded to brainstorm solutions together that work for everyone involved. Value opinions. Compromise and create win-wins whenever possible. Be flexible and adaptable willing to accept change or outside the box solutions.
3- Honor Agreements
Be honest and trustworthy. Keep your promises. Be accountable and help children be accountable - Admit mistakes when agreements are broken (safety limits, promises, etc.) Accept responsibility for behaviors, attitudes, and values.
Pause is my personal 100% never, ever negotiable expectation. And it is the only thing that I expect immediate compliance with. Now there’s a learning curve. New children in my space/home/village need to learn the process. They need to see it works. They need to test it and see it is consistent. And seeing it works consistently and judiciously, eventually builds trust in the process and a greater willingness to yield to it immediately in the future.
It is NOT established day one, but it is taught and upheld every time. I’m rigid when children are learning it. Respectful, understanding, patient with a goal to teach it – but also clear and firm with zero wiggle room. As it becomes the established flow, it becomes less rigid and more fluid. But when I call pause by specific name(s) (or EVERYONE pause), I fully expect they do.
It means hands off what they are touching, silent voices, listening ears, and safe bodies. If they need to take space to care for big feelings together before getting to the point of pause, we work through that, then come back to the process. It is from a genuine place of pause with a willingness to problem-solve that we can work through anything together (as a family, group, village, etc.)
Why PAUSE? Stop implies the end of the action. STOP running, STOP hitting, STOP playing. But PAUSE is temporary. It's like pausing the movie to go get more popcorn. PAUSE implies we can come right back after some quick adjustments. Maybe we shift things while we're paused. The pillows get fluffed, the blankets re-tucked, the popcorn bowl filled- but when everything is just right and feels good for everyone- our intention is to get right back to the show.