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The Sparks Family Rules

Posted Jul 31 2009 11:51am


It's almost 8:00am and I am tired to the bone. I haven't slept a wink. Matthew and Christopher had guests over last night - four of them total - and they kept me up most of the night. They were not too loud. They were not too rowdy. They were just teen-aged boys doing what they do. They were having a good time, laughing, and cutting up. I really enjoy having them over; they're a hoot. But still - I didn't sleep. My bedroom isn't isolated from the rest of the house and I can hear everything from my room.

I made an exception when I let four guests stay over on a night when I work the next day. I want my children to enjoy their summer vacation, but lately it seems as if the exceptions I make are becoming the expected norm for the children. I am getting push-back and attitude when I can't be, or don't want to be, as flexible as they would like.

I get all sorts of minor rebellions. I get the over-questioning of a decision. I get the rolling of the eyes. The half second pause before they answer me (as if to say "you're a dumb ass dad"). The exaggerated sigh.

I've been very lenient, and I feel that they are starting to take advantage of me - all three of my children. I have let it happen in my desire to be a good dad who is "cool". I still carry some guilt about all the things they couldn't do while I was in cancer treatments - and things we even still shy away from because I am not fully healed physically and mentally.

My children aren't malicious, mind you. I have great children. I have just let the exceptions to most of my rules become the norm - I have allowed the structures I keep in place to fall to the wayside. All in the name of "summer vacation" and "cancer guilt."

I have decided to get us back on track. I have devised my "Hours of Operation," my "House Rules," and my "House Guidelines." They are codes of conduct and expectations for the entire family, myself included. I expect us all to abide by and sign off on these Rules.

I never thought I would create a "legal" document for the family - but it makes a lot of sense. My kids are smart. All of them. They are experts at loopholes. My 15-year-old son is the worst - he wants all the freedoms of a man but isn't ready for it yet. He pushes the boundaries constantly. He's never overtly disrespectful - he's a great kid - but he more than anyone drives the exceptions to be the norm. He's blazing the trail for the others. He reminds me a lot of myself at his age.

The "legal" document is still a draft, but I thought I'd leave you with an excerpt or two from it. Tell me what you think!

House Rules (excerpt)

II. You shall strive to maintain a “B” average in all classes.
this is your goal. We understand that some classes will be more difficult than others.

III. You shall clean your room daily.
this means all glasses are removed, all messes are cleaned, and all corners and nooks are free of dust, debris, and muck.

IX. You shall carry your cell phone and keys with you any time you leave the house.
Your phone must be on and not on silent-all. It must have minutes on it. You must answer when called.

House Guidelines (excerpt)

Respect
This house operates under one rule; we will respect one another. You will talk politely to your parents and to each other. You will not talk down to each other. You will share house resources without conflict (TVs, laptops, chairs, etc). You will abide by all decisions made by Mom and Dad without attitude. Attitude is any behavior that expresses displeasure in a non-respectful way; rolling of the eyes, blank stares when asked a question, raised voices, pouting, sulking, etc.

Exceptions to Rules
Mom and Dad will occasionally grant an exception to a rule; do not expect that exception to become the norm. Do not ever say “but last time you let me. . . “ or you will quickly lose any flexibility we might give you.

Signature Page(excerpt)

I __________________________________ commit to abide by these Hours of operations, House Rules, and House Guidelines (hereafter “Rules”). I understand that these Rules are not intended to punish me or to unduly constrain me, but are designed to help ensure my personal health, provide me with an environment in which I can enjoy my life, provide a structure that will enable me to succeed in my academic endeavors, and produce a reasonable set of expectations that govern the entire household.

I understand that as a member of this household my actions affect everyone in the household. I agree that in addition to love, respect and communication are the foundation of a good family. I will participate in family activities and discussions. I agree to examine my actions and objectively see how these actions affect others in my household. I agree to respect myself at all times and to respect my family.

Anyway - it's all very interesting. I hope that this will help us get back on track, especially with schedules, as summer winds down. These kids are going to have a hard time adjusting to the school year if I don't quickly start getting them back on schedule.

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