The new school year is about to begin, and this presents a great chance for parents to evaluate the previous year and make changes to their general house rules. How did the kids do on homework last year? Cleaning out their book bags? Household chores? Did they need a nap or a snack when they walked in the door? Did they have too many activities or too much time on their hands?

Set aside an evening to sit down as a family and discuss these issues, and any others you can think of, that pertain to your particular brood. Here are some suggestions for the occasion:

Have a list ready

Make up a parents' list of issues you think need revisited. Try to remember specific issues with each kid and make a note of them. Have this handy, but don't present it right away. Instead,

Ask kids to make their own list

Since training your children to be responsible for themselves is one of a parent's greatest accomplishments, have your kids make their own lists of things they would like to present for change.

Set the guidelines for the evening

No arguing. All suggestions will be thoughtfully considered and discussed. Keep it light and fun. Put the impetus on self-governance, teaching kids to be aware of their own needs.

Start with the oldest child

By starting with the eldest, you are showing them respect and teaching the younger ones that with age comes privilege. It also allows them to set a pattern for the youngsters on how to conduct themselves when it is their turn.

No interruptions

When it is a child's turn, let them present their suggestions and give them the same courteous and thoughtful attention you would give your minister or boss.


Now is the time to pull out your own cheat sheet and talk about ideas you have. With mutual respect, come to an agreement on the new rules. If you have reservations about, say, bedtime, tell them you are willing to give it a 2-week trial with an evaluation to follow. By doing this, you allow your kids to make choices and test the waters. It teaches them do the thinking and evaluating.

Keep notes

Have a notebook handy and keep track of the rules for each child. Later, type them up, put them in a plastic sleeve, and hang on bedroom door. This keeps everyone on the same page and helps prevent future rebellion.

Go down the line

Cover the issues with each child, keeping notes and showing respect. Try not to run out of patience before you run out of kids.

End with a bang!

Good job. Huge accomplishment. Great teamwork. Teaching moment successful. Now ... party! Have a special treat like ice cream sundaes for dinner or spaghetti and meatballs without plates or utensils. Show them that it's business before pleasure, but that you still know how to have crazy fun.

Teaching moments can be so much fun. Educating your children in self-governance is one of the most important things you can do. Little exercises like this will give you so much more confidence when the time comes to turn them out into the world.

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