We’re talking about rules at my house.
I realize this is going to cause some rankles. I can see the eyebrows rising already, especially when I talk about your kids at my house. So before you get too agitated, let me assure you that there’s a lot of give-and-take at my house even with these rules. Now that we’ve taken care of housekeeping, we can get started.
All of us have different rules at our house: bedtime, mealtime, playtime, clothing, cleanliness, and behavior. There are different rules at any house and that’s okay.
Let me tell you, I got really tired of kids coming to my house and trying to be allowed to do at my house what they did at theirs. I’m not telling you what to do at your house; I’m just telling you what happens at mine.
It’s my house, so my rules RULE.
You are quite welcome to trump my rules for your kids if yours are more stringent than mine. Any rules that undermine my rules are not allowed. I follow the same when I visit your house because I won’t consider undermining authority, even if we might disagree.
I have this thing about wasting food. It’s because my mama grew up in the depression; you already know what that means. I can’t stand to have the time and money I spent on a dish be thrown into the trash with no regard for stewardship. Plus, there are all these starving kids in other countries that I heard about when I was a kid. There are still starving kids in other countries who would give anything for what is being thrown in the trash. Not wasting my money gives me more to share around the world in places where there really isn’t enough food. [See links below.] I agree with what my mama used to say: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” When I throw something in the trash, it helps if I visualize that waste as actual dollar bills – which is really what it is.
Any kid who has room for dessert has room for the food on his plate. So at my house, the rule is that you get dessert when your food is gone. I’m not talking about gone as in “throwing it in the trash.” You may not be my kid, but if you’re eating at my house, that’s the rule.
We have another rule. Every kid has to taste the food he has never tasted, even if he just knows he won’t like it. He has to try a taste. Don’t tell me you don’t like some food if you’ve never tried it. Your Mama might not like it and your grandma might not like it. Your grandpa might never make you taste it, but at my house, tasting a new food is the rule. Surprisingly, no child has ever died from following this rule at my house. Even more astonishing, I’ve had two-year-olds eat cooked cabbage and broccoli – and beg for more. Yep. I was as surprised as anyone.
At my house, if you serve the food to yourself, it’s just tough if your eyes were bigger than your stomach. If you don’t want to finish it now, you can finish it later. It definitely won’t go in the trash. Certainly, you can have dessert, after your food is gone. You can have two desserts for all I care AFTER your food is gone. [Actually I don’t recommend double desserts, but I remember a time my five-year-old kid wanted a piece of pumpkin pie when everyone else was getting some. He still hadn’t finished his mashed potatoes. I was getting glares from other adults at the table as I insisted he finish his food. When he finally ate all his mashed potatoes, he eagerly ate his piece of pie. Imagine our surprise when the boy, who was too full to finish those mashed potatoes minutes before, suddenly had room for a second piece of pie! He got it, ate the entire second piece, and the glares changed to chagrin.]
At my house, you can always drink water. You might not want sweet tea or milk. You might rather have a soft drink because that’s what you’re used to drinking at home or at your grandma’s house. However, at my house, nobody brings a beverage for you to have at my table because you’ve got to have that soft drink. Oh no! You can drink water or be thirsty. That’s ’cause it’s my house, and that’s the rule. Plus, if you’re a no-water kid, I don’t mind being given credit for being the Mean Mom who didn’t cater to your whim. [Actually, I don’t recommend a lot of sweet tea for kids (and I’m a whiz at diluting it half-and-half with water), but this is the south, and it’s better than a soft drink any day – and, as I said, this is my house. . . . ]
In my vehicle, you will be buckled with a seatbelt and/or in a car seat if required by your age or size. If you are under age twelve, you won’t sit in the front seat if there’s an airbag present. You might do that in your vehicle, but you won’t do it in mine. I really don’t care if your grandma or your aunt doesn’t make you buckle up. This Mean Mama cares, so buckle up.
There are words you might use at your house; but at this house, those words are not allowed. You probably know what some of those words are. We don’t care how or when you’ve heard those words anyplace else. If you use God’s name, you’ll have to explain if you were praying or cursing. We use His name in prayer, but not in cursing at this house.
You know why I came up with these rules? It was because of my kids. You see, I had rules for my kids. However; when other kids came, I didn’t make them finish their food because their parents didn’t require that of them. Oh, did I hear about that! You see, the visiting kids got to eat my yummy dessert and my kids didn’t – because the parents had different rules. Of course, those kids were allowed to throw some of their dessert into my trash can which my kids weren’t allowed to do. My trash can* does not “do” unwanted food from kids.
You know what? I truly don’t have a problem with having different rules. I only have a problem when people try to bring their rules to my house.
Since I believe in being the fairest parent in the world, I had to make the rules for my house. That’s because I’m a mom, and moms look out for their kids. I did this for my kids.
The words, “At this house . . . ” made all the difference.
You can allow sugar-highs, no vegetables, and all the dessert you want at your house. You can allow your kids to be couch potatoes and veg in front of the TV for hours. [Oh stop fussing. I’m exaggerating; you should know that.] You can allow a no-bedtime rule. Your kids can ride unbuckled if it’s with you, and the words they choose are not my problem if it’s at your house. That’s your house. However; at this house, my rules RULE.
Oh please! I’m telling you the rules at this house. I’m not saying you can’t have it your way at your house. You just can’t have it your way at mine.
I’ve never told a child, “Your mama should make you eat all your food.” I just tell him, “At this house, we get to eat dessert after we have finished all our food.”
I’ve never told a child, “Your uncle should never use those words!” I just tell her, “At this house, we don’t use those words.” Sometimes I tell her, “If you hear me use those words, you can, too. However; if you don’t hear me say those words in my house, then you can’t say them either.”
At my house, if your kid is visiting and you want him in bed at 9PM, even if that’s not the rule at my house, he’ll be in bed by 9PM. Trumping your rule with my rule is wrong when your rule is more stringent than mine.
If your child is left in my care, I won’t undermine your authority and allow him to do something at my house that he’s not (for principle) allowed to do at yours. That’s because one of my rules is to not subserve the parents of any child in my care.
When kids come to my house, they know the rules. Normally they don’t question those rules.
Would you believe me when I tell you that the kids aren’t the ones who argue? The ones who have a problem are their adult parents.
Kids find there is security in having rules. They discover security in knowing what the rules are. There’s a whole bunch of “feeling safe” when a kid knows the rules and know they won’t change from one day to another.
Go ahead. No adult or child can argue with you when you say “At this house . . .”
Have a reason for your rules. Make those rules. Stick to them. You’ll find life is a tad easier all the way around. You might even be paving the way for some parents who are trying to learn more about parenting or need some extra encouragement along the way. It’s your house. There, your rules RULE.
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*Oh, you thought I never, ever, ever give in and require less because it’s a child who is new on my turf, is sick, or is too young to understand? Ask my kids. They still think I’m a wimp with other people’s kids. It’s the “regulars” who visit my house (or live with us temporarily) that need to learn the rules at our house. And, when Sunday lunch is served, everyone gets dessert after all their food is gone. Like I said, it’s my house . . . .
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If you’re looking for ways to help your children appreciate what they have, I recommend sponsoring a child in another country. There are many organizations out there. Be sure to research before you begin sending money. Here are several that I can recommend: http://www.compassion.com/ http://www.onechildmatters.org/