You need the best parenting rule ever. When you are the only adult in the home it is important to be efficient. There is little time or energy for things that are not a top priority. According to my kids, most of their friends’ homes had many rules. It took me awhile to figure it out, but in the interest of efficiency, we had two rules. Once I figured out the number one rule, life was much simpler.
Respect the Mother
The number one rule was “Respect the Mother.” We then had a discussion about what it means to respect the mother.
Don’t Cause Worry
It is a mother’s nature to worry about her children. That means a mom needs to know where her kids are, what they are doing, who they are with, and at whose house they’re scheduled to sleep. Back when phones could be set up with quick texts, my son put one in my phone that said simply “status.” If my kids got that text it meant I needed to know where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with. It’s a simple request and not overly intrusive for independent teens.
Do Your Share
Respecting the mother also means pitching in and helping. We were never in a position to have
a household cook or cleaner. This is the case for most families raising children with one parent
in the home (and most with two parents in the home). We talked about how, as family members,
it was everyone’s responsibility to pitch in and do what needed to be done. Mom is not another
word for servant. The expectation was to do what needed to be done, and get “bonus points”(a
pat on the back) for noticing what needed to be done and doing it without being asked.
Make Good Decisions
Trying to make good decisions is another part of respecting the mother. Poor decisions cause
negative consequences and create extra work. Some of that extra work usually falls on the
mother, who already has a lot of work to do. I stressed that I understand we all make mistakes,
but asked my kids to please think about what would happen and to make the best decisions
possible. It helps to mention that good decisions give us more time for fun.
Be Nice to the Mother
I have had clients who are parenting a two-home preschooler ask for advice on the child’s back-
talking and defiance. I made a slight modification to the number one rule and suggested they
implement the rule as, “Be nice to the mother.” I have had reports that after teaching the child
this simple rule, the parent could often stop defiance by asking, “Are you following the number
one rule?” or “Are you being nice to Mommy?”
I knew the number one rule had worked when one of my sons, as a senior in high school,
reported that our house was different than his friends’ houses. “How is that?” I asked.
“We have no rules,” he said.
He explained to me that as long as he was respectful and made good decisions he could do
what he wanted. And he went on to explain that making good decisions is usually common
sense—what anyone would do.
What are your thoughts on the best parenting rule ever? Is there anything you would add when you
explain this rule to your own children? Read about our second and last household rule in Parenting Rule #2 .