Three to six years old is an important period in which children develop an awareness of rules, and the family has a crucial role to play in this. Parents should adopt flexible, diverse, and effective methods to help their children become familiar with the initial concept of rules, and foster an environment for enforcing rules.
Though sometimes this may be hard, when done properly, it lays the foundation for our children's future, healthy growth—it serves to benefit them for life! So how can we go about instilling this awareness and respect for rules?
- Pick the Right Time
- Rules Need to Be Simple and Specific
- Involve Your Child when Making Rules
- Set a Good Example and Give Encouragement
Pick the Right Time
The agreed-upon rule must be agreed upon before the action that breaks the rule takes place. Don't make the rule after the problem occurs. For example, the next time you take your child to go shopping, tell your child in advance that you will not buy him a toy this time. Help your child understand what the rules are before an upcoming activity. And remember to remind your child of the rules that have already been established.
Rules Need to Be Simple and Specific
The rules you make need to be simple, specific, and easy to understand. Your child needs to be able to easily follow the rules you make. For example, "put that back to where you got it" is a specific and easy-to-understand rule, whereas, "keep your room tidy" is an abstract one that your child wouldn't know how to follow. Avoid making too many rules at once, and overly complicated ones.
Involve Your Child when Making Rules
When you make a rule, don't make it unilaterally; let your child participate in the rule-making process. Help your child understand the reason for making the rule and the consequences of breaking it. And even give your child the opportunity to come up with some of her own rules.
Children are more conscious of their own rules and are thus more willing to follow them. Parents should of course guide their children in making their own rules, make sure the rules are appropriate, and ensure the rules are easily enforceable.
Set a Good Example and Give Encouragement
A good role model has a subtle, subconscious way of promoting and enforcing rule awareness. All children can imitate, and parents are the most direct object of their imitation. Every word you say, every action you take, your child is watching, so let him see a good example.
When your child does follow a rule as promised, give him approval and encouragement. This gives your child motivation to respect the next rule that comes up. Take advantage of this cherished three-year window—from three to six years old—to give your child the best possible guidance.