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Learning About Family Commitments for 3-Year-Olds and Up

Family Commitments

Family commitments (or “family rules”) are a great way to get everyone at home on the same page about what’s OK and not OK in your family. They could be guidelines for daily expectations and good behavior or promises the family makes to each other. 

When you’re deciding on how your family commitments will take shape, you might first consider your family values. What do you need to be successful at those? Three to five commitments will be much more effective than a list of commands and restrictions. And the simpler they are, the easier they’ll be to remember. Here are a couple more things to keep in mind when creating your family commitments: 
  • Be as specific as you can be. The whole goal here is to get on the same page. 
  • Convey the expected behavior. When kids know what exactly they should do, it makes what they shouldn’t do clearer. 
  • Stay positive. And stay mindful of unnecessary withdrawals
Invite your children to contribute when setting their commitments to you. What do they value as important? Understanding what’s important to them will help them have a deeper connection to the family’s rules. Ask them to write out the commitments or draw pictures that illustrate them. Place your family commitments somewhere the whole family can be reminded of them. Have children practice them within their day-to-day routine to encourage good habits. 

Examples of effective family commitments

Having a list of do’s instead of don’ts can help prevent undesirable behaviors by encouraging good ones. For example, you might try “Be safe, be kind, and be a helper.” Or, “We keep our bodies safe, we listen to each other, and we take care of our home.” Try keeping your 3–5 commitments broad, for memory’s sake, then get more specific. Here are a few examples of more specific ways you can apply broader family commitments: 
  • Playtime 
    • I keep my body safe by not jumping on my bed. 
    • I am kind by taking turns with my sibling. 
  • Clean-up time 
    • I am a helper by putting my toys away. 
    • I am kind by helping my sibling with their toys even if I didn’t play with them.  
If you see your child not following the rules, instead of correcting, try connecting. Encourage their practice with questions that get them to reflect on their actions. For example, “Can you show me how we keep our bodies safe?” Be sure to especially call out when children are making good choices, not just when you see them engaging in inappropriate ones.  

Go over the rules often with your child. Allow them time to talk about past situations where they may not have been following the commitments. Take time to problem-solve ways they or you could have handled the situation differently. If no events have taken place, make up a few scenarios and roleplay!  

Pro tip: Create a Commitments Jar with your family from a mason jar or any clear container. When you or your child notice a family member practicing your commitments, add a cotton ball or pom-pom to the jar. Make a big deal of it and give lots of praise to the person following the commitment. Decide together what the prize will be once the jar is full. Maybe it's a special dinner or dessert, a drive to a drive-in movie theater, or a late-night pajama dance party!