House rules

As you may have noticed, the Ezzo books are full of high-level parenting principles, but we parents must fill in the blanks ourselves when it comes to specific, day-to-day rules and values. I’m sure this is intentional on the part of the Ezzos. We should decide how to apply the principles for our own family to suit our own parenting styles and our own kids. Nevertheless, it does help to be exposed to specific house rules that other people hold in their own homes.

For example, we were just visiting a friend and she had a “no running in the house” rule. It struck me as sheer brilliance! It is very basic, but I always had some caveat about when and where they could run in the house. Now we have a “no running in the house at all” rule. Love it!

So here is my basic list of house rules. Most of these apply only to William (4.5) but we keep them in mind for Lucas (18 months) as well. I would love to hear more ideas, so please reply with your comments.

Obedience and respect

  • Obey Mommy and Daddy above all else, even when what we say contradicts the usual rule.
  • Respect all adults.
  • Answer when spoken to.
  • Ask only once when you have a question. Don’t repeat yourself until you get an answer. Wait patiently.
  • Use the interrupt rule.
  • Treat all living beings (parents, brother, friends, cat) with kindness and respect.
  • Offer to help Mommy and Daddy when you see the need. Always help when asked.
  • Consider how your actions affect others.
  • Respect all of our things (in the house and car).
  • Earn privileges. Don’t expect them to be handed to you.
  • Speak with polite words and a polite voice. Disrespect (talking back) is not tolerated.


  • Wash your hands before every meal.
  • Eat and drink only at the table. If there is food in your mouth or a utensil in your hand, your booty belongs completely on the chair.
  • Use proper manners at the table. Fork goes on the plate while chewing. Clean your hands with a napkin. No toys on the table. No loud noises.
  • Eat what you are served. No complaining about the food, and no other food will be offered until the next meal.
  • Ask to be excused when you are finished.
  • Take your dishes into the kitchen when you’re done.


  • Ask for permission to go upstairs to your room. There is no other room upstairs where you can have unsupervised access. And you simply do not belong in the office ever.
  • Ask for permission to play in the backyard.
  • Ask for permission to watch TV. No touching the TV/stereo equipment unless you are told to do so.
  • Ask for permission to paint. All painting and other messy crafts must be done at the kitchen table.
  • Clean up after roomtime and before bath/bed.

Self care

  • Dress yourself in the morning. You may pick out your clothes. If what you choose doesn’t match or is inappropriate for the weather, you must change into what I give you.
  • Take off your shoes and coat when we get home. Shoes go in the shoe basket. Coat goes in the coat closet.
  • Wash and dry your hands after using the bathroom.
  • Sit still and patiently while we brush your teeth.
  • Buckle yourself into your car seat.


  • Use an inside voice when we are inside. (My recent logical consequence for outside voices is having William stand outside for a minute or two. Outside voice? Go outside! He gets the point very quickly.)
  • No whining. You will be ignored or asked to change your voice when you whine.
  • No running in the house. This goes for restaurants and other public places, too.
  • Do not answer the door when someone rings the bell. Wait for Mommy or Daddy.
  • Be quiet when we are on the phone.
  • No roughhousing at bedtime or first thing in the morning. You may rest in our bed first thing in the morning, but it is not a wrestling place. Absolutely no jumping on the bed.
  • Always ask for food. Never help yourself to food in the house, although you may help yourself to a glass of water.
  • Never lock any door in the house.

I’m sure there are several rules that I have forgotten, but this gives you a pretty good idea of the rules I enforce on a daily basis. Many of them William knows well and will follow without issue. Others, we may have to remind him or issue consequences. And I hope this will serve as a starting point for you to develop your own list of house rules. Every home with a child should have one! And again, please send a comment with some house rules of your own. The more we share, the better our lists will be.



Filed under first-time obedience, moral training

9 responses to “House rules

  1. wow. good list.
    We aren’t really at this stage yet (12 mo). Our rules are basically, listen to and obey mommy and daddy. No whining. Don’t drop things at mealtime or in stores. No hands in your hair while eating. Don’t eat shoes/socks.

    So what’s the interrupt rule?

  2. Maureen

    LOL about the eating shoes/socks. We have that with Lucas, too. And the whining is a big one with him. The interrupt rule basically states that they put their hand on your leg and wait for you to find a break in the conversation. They don’t just start talking or interrupt your conversation. See page 99 of Childwise: “When your child needs to interrupt, teach him to place a hand on your side, shoulder or arm and then wait the few moments it will take for you to acknowledge him.” There’s a little more to it, but this is the gist of it.

  3. Ally

    I’ve been reading through some things and I have a couple questions. Maureen, I have a 16mo. boy. Do you keep a gate at stairs? And I constantly keep my bathroom door shut because it seems to be his game to see if he can get in the bathrooms and make a mess in the toilet and splash. Just wondering how you handle these situations. Also, with meals when they start throwing food do you just end it and give nothing till next time, or do you give them another chance? Thanks,

  4. Maureen

    Hi Ally. Do we keep a gate at the stairs? Yes. I know some people don’t but I see it as a safety issue. There was a while there when Lucas’ favorite thing to do was to climb the stairs and he was really quick. One time, I didn’t go after him right away and by the time I got to the top of the stairs, he had climbed his brother’s bunk bed ladder! Use your judgment on this one and gauge your comfort level. Lately, the novelty with the stairs has worn off, so I have been keeping the gate open so he can play in the playroom (downstairs) with his brother. And he’s pretty comfortable with the stairs, so I don’t have to be right behind him anymore. That will change soon though because he’s starting to walk (not crawl) up and down them.

    As for your second question about the bathroom door, I would definitely keep the door shut. Not only is it gross and makes a mess, but you have to consider the drowning risk. I’ve heard of kids drowning in buckets with just a couple inches of water, so the toilet is a hazard. With these things, you want to find a balance between allowing him opportunities to learn vs. redirecting or preventing misbehavior so you’re not correcting all day. Our house is pretty baby-proof but I have left out one or two things that I can use as a teaching tool. Then all I have to do is keep my eye on those things. Then I switch it up as he gets better with those one or two things. But to leave your entire house open will just make everybody crazy.

    Throwing food is one of our biggest issues right now. For us, there are two different issues going on. The first is he’s just done and doesn’t want to be in the highchair anymore. In that case, I’ve been working with him on signing “all done” when he’s done and putting the food he doesn’t want in the little jar holder on his tray (he needs a place to put it when he doesn’t want it anymore). I will also keep an eye on him to catch him before he does it and get him out of his highchair when he’s done. The second issue is him not liking the food I’ve offered. In this case, he hasn’t eaten anything and will throw it because he wants something else. This is where I really need to be consistent and follow through. Every time he throws food (and he hasn’t eaten enough for me to think he’s done), he gets a timeout. A couple minutes of timeout, then he goes and picks up the food off the floor, throws it in the trash (I direct him to do these things) and I put him back in the chair to eat. Part of the reason it’s such an issue for us right now is that we haven’t been consistent in getting him to eat what we make. My husband made him a different meal when it became clear that he wasn’t going to eat what we were offering. But I know that he knows and if he gets hungry enough, he will eat it. One of his most favorite foods is french fries, so I make him eat meat before fries (because he won’t eat anything but the fries if it were up to him). Well, after dealing with this for a while, I decided no more. The rest of us were done (while he fussed and whined about the fries) so I just packed it all up and brought it home. Eventually he got hungry enough that he asked for it and happily ate the (cold) meat and then he got the fries. So he definitely knows. He just wanted to see how long and how much of the whining it took before I would give in. And then he realized that I wasn’t going to give in. I’ll probably need to keep doing this because he is such a picky eater. And personally, I struggle with sending him to bed without enough dinner. I’m afraid he’ll wake up in the night or wake up screaming/starving in the morning. And at this age, I don’t think they’re old enough to associate that hunger with bad behavior that took place 12+ hours ago.

    Does that help? Good luck!

  5. What do you think is an appropriate rule about throwing things (not food). When my son was a pretoddler all he wanted to do all day was throw things so I let him. Now I see that letting him throw all his toys wasn’t the best idea! I don’t let him throw books and he isn’t allowed to throw things at people but I’m starting to think that maybe this isn’t good enough. It’s just hard to not allow him to throw anything at all when it is his favorite thing to do! My thoughts are that I could limit it to ouside (but we can’t go outside half the year d/t weather), his toy room or only let him throw certain things like balls which I could more easily instruct him not to throw or take away if needed. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  6. Maureen

    Hi Rachel. Yeah, throwing toys in the house (or at all) isn’t the best idea. I would establish rules about what you will and won’t allow. And then give him some outlet to do his throwing thing. We only allow throwing balls and even that we only do it outside. Inside, we roll the ball to each other, so the rule is the ball needs to stay close to the ground. William (now 5) has the strength and height that can make throwing balls in the house a bad idea. Small, lightweight balls are best. If your son does love to throw, get him a toy that allows him to do it, like a ball pit or a basketball hoop of some sort. Be sure to explain to him your new rules. I find that it’s much easier to decide on a clear-cut rule than to have one that has a ton of different caveats. The “no running in the house at all rule” is a good example. “No throwing toys” is another good one. It’s easier for him to understand and comply that way. Does that help?

  7. Thanks for your thoughts! You pretty much said everything I knew I should do but didn’t want to have to do! You gave me the extra push I need to make a change here bc one obviously needs to take place!

    I’ve been thinking about buying a ball pit for some time (so he can throw year round) but felt like he had enough toys as it was. But I guess I have NEED to buy one now so I’m not just spoiling him 🙂

  8. Natalka

    Wow, that’s a very long list of rules! Do you add to it as your boys get older or when their environment changes? Do you take some rules off the list when they are not applicable anymore? How do your boys react to that – i.e. adding/removing rules?
    In our house we have a rule: “Do unto others as you want to be done unto you” – very effective and simple 🙂

  9. Maureen

    The “golden rule” is definitely one that we follow, but it helps to be specific with little ones sometimes. We do change up the list as time goes on, but many of them are rules that will never change. My boys react fine to a change in the rules. They understand that as they age and show more maturity, they gain more freedoms. But with those freedoms come new responsibilities.

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