Years ago, I heard a mom say, “Time to empty out.” Her son went to the bathroom without event. With those four-words, ended the whole “Go to the bathroom. But I don’t have to” battle. I explained one time, “Your bladder can hold A LOT of pee, it’s time to empty out.” Soon the older kids, we’re teaching the younger ones.
“Different families, different rules,” are four-words that have changed our family life. With five kids, I say “no” a lot. Our kindergartener will still fall-out on the floor in full-body tantrum some days. And have you ever seen a middle-school tantrum? It’s not pretty.
“No,” can make me the bad-guy. I can handle that, when necessary, but it’s not always necessary. The answer “no” can often be replaced with a simple explanation, “Different families, different rules.”
Parents and kids know families live differently. The movies we watch, the places we go, the way we parent, the things we buy. “Different families, different rules” ends the whole “Why do they get to, but we don’t?” discussion.
Some families drink soda daily. We drink it with pizza, when we go out-to-eat once a month, and at parties. We have friends who don’t drink soda at all. Why? That’s their family practice. “Different families, different rules.” No one is the bad guy. Not you. Not the other family. The rule is just the rule.
“Different families, different rules,” does two other powerful things. One, kids and parents often unknowingly elevate their family’s practices over another family. “Different families, different rules” encourages us to honor our own family’s practices and other families at the same time. Two, it makes us, the parents and the kids, a team. Rather than pitting us against our kids, “different families, different rules” encourages our kids to embrace our family practices for themselves.
Just yesterday, the boys wanted a kid to play with them. He wasn’t allowed to leave the bleachers, “Different families, different rules. Go play,” I said. “What did you say?” an older child asked. I repeated myself. She smiled a big smile, “I’ve never heard that.” “You like it?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said and looked at her mom. It made so much sense to her without any explanation. That’s what makes those words powerful. Kids understand them and will embrace them.
“Different families, different rules.” Try it. I’d love to hear how it works for you.