Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Saturday 31 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Ignatius Loyola
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Why “House Rules” Are Great for Kids—and Also Parents


kids playing with bubbles

Kathleen M. Berchelmann, MD - published on 08/25/15

It's all about setting clear expectations and naming behaviors

Our favorite family dinner is my husband’s homemade pizza—thin crust, topped with mozzarella and parmesan. But whenever that pizza hit the table, the fighting and jealousy would start. Eight little hands would scramble to get the biggest pieces and fill their plates before I had even sat down. One night, frustrated, I exclaimed, “Why are you all so jealous?”

They looked at me, stunned, like I was speaking a foreign language. Finally, a little voice came from the end of the table:

“What’s jealous?”

Good discipline starts with setting clear expectations and naming behaviors. Apparently, I had never discussed jealousy.

We clearly needed to define some house rules. We’re the Berchelmann’s, so we wrote: “The Berchelmann 10 Commandments.” Here they are:

1. Attitude is a choice.

2. Obey Mommy and Daddy the first time. Say “Yes, Mommy” or “Yes, Daddy.”

3. Pick up your stuff and put it away in the right place.

4. Use loving voices. We love you too much to argue.

5. Don’t interrupt.

6. Be grateful, not jealous.

7. No physical violence.

8. Be a servant, not a taker.

9. Apologize if you hurt someone.

10. Respect other people’s things.

These house rules have been in place in our house for about two years now, and we talk about them daily every morning. Sometimes we ask the kids to recite them, but usually we just ask them to name one that they’re going to work on today. Then we talk about them again at bedtime prayers, asking God for the grace to keep trying. Mostly, the rules give me something to say when I see a kid clearly breaking one. It’s an opportunity for me to have a calm response rather than an angry voice. Now I yell at my kids less; I just recite the rule, like a refrain you can’t get out of your head. Then I give consequences, when necessary, but we don’t spank our kids.

It’s all part of our goal of “Attunement Parenting,” a no-yell, no-spank parenting method that recognizes a child’s needs without ignoring a parent’s needs.

Our children still grab at the pizza, but now I just have to say, “Be grateful, not jealous,” and they sigh and put back some of the pieces.

What are your house rules? Is there something we should add to this list?

Kathleen M. Berchelmann, MDis an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and a mother of five young children. Connect with Dr. Berchelmann at

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
Mathilde De Robien
Did you know Princess Di was buried with a rosary?
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
Lauren Daigle
J-P Mauro
After 3 years Lauren Daigle ousts herself from #1 Billboard spot
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.