Making rules, establishing boundaries and setting routines can be challenging for both parents and teachers. But children need rules to guide them, boundaries to give them a sense of safety and routines to give daily life predictability, according to Diane Bales, a UGA Extension specialist with the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
“Rules are the biggest foundation of guiding children’s behaviors,” Bales said. “Children want the security of knowing what is expected of them and rules provide that.”
One way children establish security and determine boundaries is by testing the rules.
“Reinforce the rules every time,” she said. “It is much harder to stop the behavior if children are inconsistently dealt with.”
It is easier for children to follow rules, and for adults to enforce them, if there are a few rules that are easy to understand. Bales suggests making as few rules as possible to cover as many things as possible.
Elementary school children can be involved in the rule-making process. Ask students to share ideas about how to get along and make each other happy. Then, post a list of the agreed-upon rules where everyone can see them. Teachers and parents can combine similar rules to cut down on the number of rules a child has to remember.
Rules also need to be developmentally appropriate. Consider the attention span and physical ability of the children. Rules should not be impossible to follow.