Executive Summary

This feature addresses the problem of rules that can complicate and weaken a parent’s relationship with their child. Drawing from key concepts gleaned from research and fieldwork in prevention strategy the highlights below offer insights and tips to strengthen the parent-child bond in a world that hypes fear and fakery in the social media networks.

Summary of findings from 15 years of research and lived experience:

  • House rules fail because they are used as tools to project power (i.e., to manipulate and control others), and/or they are age inappropriate.
  • Effective rules are not tools to project power. They are tools for learning how to use your power wisely. In a cyber-powered world, our children need to learn this lesson early by our own example.
  • When rules make sense and bring about peace, the kids will want to follow them.
  • Effective house rules serve as tools to build trust and foster resilience by encouraging transparency and offering a clean slate after a consequence for violating a house rule.
  • Using rules to project power (i.e., intimidate others into compliance) is a sign of weakness in that it reveals insecurity.

Ways house rules can fail

With apps and devices, power is no longer perceived as matter of formal title or role (i.e., who makes the rules) like a parent or teacher. Mobile connectivity ushers in a perception of power as a relational experience involving open communication (sharing of life experiences and perspectives). Youth are seeking authenticity and guidance to think for themselves about what to do with the knowledge they have in their own childhood and teen years on and offline.

Think about it. From a Biblical perspective if rules were enough to achieve obedience the ten commandments in the First Testament would have been enough. Obedience would be automatic. But we are not robots. We are spiritual, caring, powerful creatures having a human experience. And in our nature, we are prone to believing and acting on thoughts that are not true. This is how we learn from life experiences. This is true for your child as well. Apps and devices heighten this awareness and can hasten teen or adolescent attitudes in earlier ages. The challenge is design and implement house rules to maintain open communication

  • In the social network, people need to understand how to cope with stress in healthy ways or they will burn out.

    You have too many rules that are enforced with high anxiety or anger.

  • Consequences are not established up front.
  • Consequences are administered with an angry heart and the child learns that the crime is to get caught.
  • The rule is not age-appropriate. For example, you may be withholding autonomy from a teenager, or giving too much autonomy to a grade-schooler. During the shelter-in-place order, youth will need to be spending more time online in order to maintain social connections with friends. (To learn more about age-appropriate boundary setting, check out Cyber Rites of Passage)
  • Your child has figured out to keep up appearances and complies only to keep secrets. (Some examples are vaping is easy to conceal; and sexting and casual sex can be perceived as normal and is readily accomplished with photos, video chats and clandestine arrangements via texting.) Obedience without empowerment is compliance. With compliance you have the illusion of obedience, but it is not the same thing because your aim is to have the standard of conduct established by house rules and consequences become an integral part of their identity as a trustworthy person.)

 Making house rules a strategy to build trust

The ultimate purpose of rules is empowerment, not obedience. Obedience is the byproduct of empowerment to choose to honor the rules that build trust in a family system. So it helps to consider rules as tools. And like the mobile phone, they only bring about good results with proper use. And proper use requires education.

How many of us have been properly educated about how to create and enforce house rules in a world where kids can google anything they think they need to know? Cyber-connectivity hypes emotion and exposes kids to addictions, bullying  and sexual exploitation with great intensity at earlier ages. In this “anything goes” environment, rules can be easily obscured and evaded because it is easy to keep secrets with texting and social media. House rules therefore need to have strategic value to build trust for open communication and resilience with apps and devices in the hands of youth.

Attempts to assume control of your child’s behavior rather than having confidence to teach them how to use their own power wisely is a sign of insecurity. This insecurity inspires manipulation and intimidation which is experienced as hostile by the child and kills open communication. Open communication is essential to build trust and foster resilience.

The primary purpose of house rules is to enable individuals to demonstrate the character essential to retain personal power. Ideally there are very few rules that facilitate open dialogue about what is happening in life so you can impart the wisdom of your values such as: Unconditional love (not Hollywood love); Respect for the individual, safety, trustworthiness, honesty, kindness, courtesy, good citizenship, respect for the law and everybody pitches in.

Three steps to create effective house rules

  • Write down all the rules you think are necessary.
  • With the aim of producing as few rules as possible, write down each rule with the concern and benefit to the individual and the family.
  • Now consider which rules are truly essential and pertain primarily to building trust and safety.

Below are some examples of house rules that can be enforced.

Download guidance on house rules criteria and social media etiquette

Struggling with unruly or uncooperative behavior?

Angry_girl_screamingThrough my lived experience and research I teach parents how to apply this distinction between legal custody and connection which makes discipline and empowerment possible for everyone in the family, parents and children alike. If you are dealing with a strong-willed child, this is a tremendous opportunity to learn something about discipline as empowerment through developing and administering rules that reinforce your hope.

To learn more about working with a family culture coach, contact Joanna to schedule a complementary 20-minute phone appointment and receive a warm-up packet.

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Restore parent confidence, inspire resilience and empower families to strengthen their bond.

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Joanna Jullien, Founder & CEO of Core Connectivity
Photo by: Victoria Hatch

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.