Sitting with a group of moms, we started discussing parenting and how involved and uninvolved other moms and dads were in their kids’ lives. We all agreed that we wanted our homes to be where kids would hang out. (On rotation of course). It all stemmed from a discussion about wanting our children and their friends to have a safe and reliable place while still having fun… not just a great hangout.
…Where helicoptering was off the table, but active engagement in conversation happened and guidance through life’s problems was a regular subject.
…A place where they would have rules, where they could seek trusted advice, and where they could feel like there were trusted adults around who cared for them.
My high school youth minister was one of those people that gave us hard and fast rules. He set high expectations while also creating a circle of trust; therefore none of us wanted to disappoint. We didn’t want to lose the trust or the respect, because we knew the other side would be full of restrictions rather than freedom.
How to create a safe haven for your kids friends with no fear of being the weird family with obnoxious rules
I grew up with kids who had parents that wanted every kids to watch a Bible video before they did anything else. Or others with parent who required strange rules when everyone was together.
And the reality s, those were the parents we tried to “hide” the most from. We didn’t trust them to be vulnerable in conversation for fear of getting scolded or condemned for making any sort of mistake.
But then there were the parents who had bold expectations, clear rules, and enough respect for us that we felt comfortable sharing even our biggest blunders. And that’s what I want for my children.
Four easy steps to develop meaningful boundaries while leaving space for trust are as follows:
- How clear cut rules, with enough freedom to explore and say “yes” that they don’t feel trapped.
- Ask questions and really listen without judgment.
- Use natural and logical consequences instead of punishment. (Read more about the differences and how here)
- Guide them through the consequences of their actions when they fail.
Our family’s house rules when friends are visiting
Our yard and house rules spell out “PETALS” for the kids to easily remember it. We resort to rule #1 above when any of these are violated. Logical and natural consequences are what rule our family because it helps children understand expectations and boundaries better. For instance, if a child acts inappropriately, then the freedom of getting to play together independently is lost because there is a loss of trust.
First and foremost, we define fair as “Fair is not equal. Everyone gets what he or she needs.” So if we have teens playing in the same space as toddlers, the toddler might need someone helping them up on a slide and the teen might need to know their limits around little kids.
Therefore, this ultimately means that each person is looking out for everyone else developing a sense of community between the kids.
Everyone gets a turn
While it’s similar to play fair, it could be argued that not everyone needs to swing. Or not everyone needs (fill in the blank). So to prevent this from coming up, the rule is just that if someone wants a turn, then they get it or no one gets to participate (again, logical consequences).
Treat others and belongings with respect
Each person deserves respect and kind words spoken to them.
My house, my yard, my belongings are there on loan. They are there because I want all kids to enjoy them. Therefore, we just simply take away anything that is being misused or mistreated.
Ask before you leave
This is just a courtesy to us. Because we are the ones responsible for their safety, even if a child lives next door, we make a point to make sure they ask before they leave our house or our yard.
Leave it better than you found it
This is ultimately to prevent a bunch of trash being brought into our yard or organized areas of our house getting torn to pieces. We want our children and their friends to know the responsibility of picking up, cleaning up, and having a part in the process.
Basically we call our children to think through their decisions and have forethought on what repercussions or consequences they may face because of their actions.
“Could I fall and break my arm?”
“Will I regret saying that?”
“Could my friend get sick?”
‘What will my parents say if they find out?”
Ultimately we’re called to be “LIGHTS” to the kids around us. Our own kids & their friends.
This is a printable reminder of how we can be a light in every kid’s life no matter how young or old and whether they’re ours or a child in the community. Print it out, hang it on your fridge, or even make one to have in your wallet as a reminder. It’s a free download available only to subscribers. Click the image below to subscribe and get an instant download.
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!