Someday Tom and I will write a book on this subject because so many people have asked us to do that but for now here are a few of our family rules to get you started. They may or may not work for your family but they’ve been working for us for over 32 years and so far the older ones are pretty awesome adults. Tweak them how you may.
First who are we to share how we do things and why should you even think of listening to us? Well, we are Tom and Kathe. That’s the start of things. We are not a democracy or even a republic. Most decisions are not a consensus but a decision between the two of us. We’re parents, we have long-term vision and we pay the bills. Sound harsh? Maybe, but it’s worked well for us so far.
We have a saying in our house, when you can make the house payment, then you can make the rules for that month. Ha! In 32 years not one of them have ponied up the money.
We got married with each of us having 2 children. They were ages 5 – 12 years of age. Mine were the older two boys and Tom a girl and boy. Then we had 2 more, a boy and a girl. Then we adopted a teen from Ukraine. We just recently adopted 3 more teens from Ukraine. So we are quite the blended family. Now we’ve added two daughter-in-law’s and soon to add a son-in-law plus we are expecting grandbaby #6 in April.
These rules are in no particular order but they all stand on #1. Without that, well, you may as well throw the whole lot out. Some of the comments will only make sense if you’re a blended family like ours but you should be able to get a nugget or two even if you’re still in the same relationship and all kids are joint.
And by the way, this is probably not how most families run things. If you have a different opinion, run with it. I’m hoping enough are on the same page that as my kids grow up and get married they will find good matches with similar upbringing. So far, that is exactly what is happening with our older ones. Funny how that happens. Quite nice to know there are others out there.
Rule #1. Parents on the same page – no matter what. You’ll hear me use that phrase a lot in my writing. I’m a “no matter what” kind of girl. It works for me. Basically I’m all in.
This rule means that it does not matter which kid is “mine” and which is “yours” if you’re a blended family. They are “ours” from this point onward. Whether you are blended or not the decisions are joint and if one parent says no, then both say no. There is also the “what did mom say” and conferring with the other parent to make sure that is exactly what mom said and no matter if you agree or disagree you have to go along with it because you NEVER undermine the other parent in front of kids. You are a UNITED FRONT at all costs. Kids know where they can worm their way in and cause problems so don’t give them that opportunity. It’s you and your spouse against the crew. Remember someday it will be just the two of you (I’m dreaming here) and you want to have the respect and love of that person long after children are grown and gone. Too many divorces are caused by ignoring this rule, especially in blended families.
Rule #2. Goes along with rule #1. Parents make decisions in private away from children. And have your disagreements there, too. (Yes, all healthy marriages have disagreements, especially those with lots of children from all sorts of places). Talk through these situations out of earshot of inquiring ears. Once the decision has been agreed upon, then present your united front decision to your child(ren). No more arguing with parents. Child can try but there is no point.
Rule #3. Discipline. Touchy place when you are a love (step)-parent. (We never used the word step in our house. Reminded me too much of a Stepford something). I agreed to love his children when I agreed to marry him so they are my love-children. I accepted them as my own, no matter what.
Getting back to discipline. When one parent disciplines it’s all them. The other parent needs to zip the lip. And if he is disciplining in a way I don’t agree with (especially if it’s one of “mine”) then maybe I need to go into another room, or get in the car and drive away if I can’t keep my emotions and words to myself. Later, when things have settled you can have a discussion, in private, with your spouse. Children should never see that they can cause a rift between parents. They will use it when you least expect it.
And if you’re a mom, sometime dad’s need to discipline boys or have boys do things that make you go eeeeeek! Walk away, just walk away if you don’t agree. He is teaching them to be men. He knows how to do that much better than you do.
Rule #4. Personal Responsibility and the 24-hour rule otherwise known as either pick up your stuff or when you go looking for it you might have to travel to the Salvation Army or nearby garbage disposal facility.
No parent needs to be the maid service. More times than I can count I’ve reminded my kids that I’m not your friend, your maid or your servant. I am your mom. Maybe I’ll be your friend when you hit 25. That depends on you. Right now you clean up after yourself or you will have less stuff to worry about.
And if you decide to eat in the family room, keep your shoes on in the house, or not pick up your dishes after eating you are just saying that you want to sweep and mop the floor and do kitchen duty. Thanks!
Rule #5. I love you no matter what and I like being around you, at least most of the time. That means you get mom time or dad time without any other kids from time to time. Maybe it’s just a walk around the block. This is one of Vlad’s favorites with me. Many times you’ll see us walking arm in arm around the neighborhood having conversation. Katherine likes to go to lunch and chat. Tom will take someone with him to Home Depot. We make time for each of them. Go too long without it and they’ll get really weird. If you find one of your kids getting weird, just do something with just them. You’ll see them turn around pretty fast. Anytime you go someplace grab a kid to go with you. That is unless it’s one of those times that you better get some alone time or someone might lose their head. Then it’s OK to leave them all at home. I’ve heard it’s really difficult parenting from prison.
Rule #6. My job as a parent is to turn out an adult that is a useful member of society and respects both Yahweh and others. That he or she knows how to run a household, keep good finances and not rely on others for support, or to do the dishes. As they grow they get more responsibilities. For example in our house by age 12 they are learning how to do their own laundry. That means start to finish with all steps in between. They learn how to properly wash their clothes. They help with cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc.
Note: They will complain – a lot. I don’t hear complaining. I talk to them about the book int he Bible which talks about having joy in spite of circumstances. (Philippians) And I turn the music up louder and laugh and dance. Nobody said you couldn’t have fun and wash a floor at the same time.
I had a high school counselor call me one day and say Mrs. Ray, out of 500+ graduating students your son is the only one I’ve counseled that actually seems ready to be an adult. He had his own checking account and knew how to balance a checkbook. He had a job, his own car and goals. He knew how to cook and did his own laundry. Now he is a dad of 3, happily married and his wife says I grew her a great husband who actually helps her around the house and knows how to do it all. That is the highest compliment a parent can get. Remembering that helps me stay strong through raising 6 more teenagers. I want that compliment from their future spouses.
You are not the maid. You do not have to do it all. When you do everything yourself you are not teaching your children how to be adults and care for their own home someday. Remember your job is to grow decent humans that are capable and responsible. They don’t get that by watching you do it all.
Rule #7. Probably right up there with rule #1 in importance. Parents set the example. Your children will model what you do, not what you say. Have integrity. Be authentic. And work on your marriage every day. Someday you want your children to find an amazing spouse. Believe me I have two married and I LOVE their spouses. They are both amazing women and I thank Yahweh every day for them. They are fantastic spouses and mom’s. I couldn’t have asked for better.
Love your spouse and do something every day to make your marriage better. And the more children you have, the busier your life, the more you need to make him/her #1 and take time to love on them. Date nights or even just walks with them in your neighborhood. A time to talk without constant interruption. Remember what I said about a kid getting weird? Well it will happen to your spouse, too. If they start getting weird ask yourself when was the last time you two had alone time? Yup! Been awhile right? Fix it now. You’ll have a changed spouse. Laugh with your spouse and have some fun. Life is not all dirty dishes and homework. Take time to work on your best investment.
If that’s one thing being in Ukraine taught me is that life is too short and too many problems to not enjoy life. Remember that book in the Bible, joyful in spite of circumstances. It applies to us, too. Take time to be joyful and have fun. And family fun time, too.
So that’s a good start to our family rules. More to come.
Remember, this is Simply My Opinion.