Quick Tips

Three Main Keys to Building Structure

1. Consistency – doing the same thing every time
2. Predictability – expecting or knowing what is going to happen
3. Follow-through – enforcing the consequence (“say what you mean and mean what you say”)

Click here for more information about how to build structure.

Creating Rules

Steps to creating routines/rules:

  1. Identify the routines/rules.
  2. For routines,
    • Identify important daily activities and decide the order they should happen.
    • Identify key times of the day when the activities should occur and make a routine.
    • Be sure the routine works for the whole family.
  3. For rules,
    • Be as specific as possible.
    • Focus on specific behaviors. Avoid vague rules like “be good.”
    • Start with one or two rules and add new rules as needed. A large number of rules will be difficult to follow and enforce.
    • Rules should be realistic and fit your child’s age and development.
  1. Explain the routines/rules.
    • Make sure your child knows what you want him to do and when you want him to do it. Talk to your child about the routines and rules and have him repeat them back to you.
    • Use simple charts with pictures to visually display the routines and rules.
    • Keep in mind that young children often need reminders about what to do. Rules can and should be repeated often. Reminders, like routine and rules charts, can be placed in locations where your child can see them.
  1. Follow the routines/rules.
    • All family members should try to follow the routine and family rules.
    • Your child may not always want to follow the routine or rules, so provide reminders and support when needed to help him be successful.
    • If you’re tired or stressed, it may be difficult for you to follow the routine or enforce the rules, but try to stick with it as much as possible.
  1. Use consequences.
    • Positive consequences like praise occur when you let your child know you like the way he follows the routine or rules.
    • Negative consequences like loss of a privilege, time-out, or removal from the situation occur when the routine is not followed or rules are broken.
    • The consequences for not following the routine or breaking the rules should be clear to you and your child and given immediately.

Keep in mind

  • Be consistent with the routine and rules, and let your child know you expect them to be followed.
  • Rules are consistently enforced, routines can be flexible. If the routine changes, let your child know about the change.
  • Rules should be enforced the same way no matter who is caring for your child (including grandparents and babysitters) to provide a consistent message. Routines should also be consistent as much as possible.
  • Always follow through with consequences for routines or rules that are not followed.

Click here to see examples of family routines and read more information about the steps to creating family rules!

Page last reviewed: November 5, 2019