We live in a world of special needs and extenuating circumstances that can make black-and-white rules difficult. But making up all rules as we go is a recipe for chaos.
Here are some ideas for staying fair while maintaining orderly consistency:
With the best of rules, there will be the occasional time when someone wheedles for an exception “just this once” out of a yearning for instant gratification. Even if the argument sounds reasonable, consider carefully whether giving in will serve the long-term good. Every time you say “Okay, but just this once” to avoid a scene, you send the message that the rule and all it represents aren’t really very important.
And remember, rules apply to you, too! Don’t ever be the parent who lectures for twenty minutes if a child lies to her, then, informed an hour later that a boring acquaintance is on the phone, says to that same child, “Tell her I’m not in.”
All consequences, like rules themselves, should be:
Establishing consequences in advance will also help you avoid the trap of shouting “You’re grounded for a month” in a moment of anger, and then having to choose between admitting the punishment was unreasonable or quietly “forgetting” about it. (If you do get caught there, swallow your pride and choose the former option—presuming you want your kids to retain respect for rules and for you.)
That purpose is to teach values while maintaining order and strong community. Keep that in mind to keep rules effective.