Ask the Experts

Family Rules and Communication

“Our family is getting torn apart by a little 10-year old boy who has ADHD. My biggest problem with him is his arguing. I say no, he argues back with me. His father, however, gives in thinking he’s getting more information about the question. Now this little boy doesn’t understand ‘NO.'” – LEB, Colorado

I’m confused myself. I think there are two separate issues to deal with here. One seems to be family rules that need to be discussed, clearly defined and understood by all. The other is improving family communication and listening skills.

Family rules for behavior need to be decided upon by both parents and explained to the children so that they are understood and agreed upon by all as being just that, rules. Talk about how rules are made for our well being and safety. Post the rules where they can be read and referred to.

Be firm. Have a family meeting to go over the rules, providing an opportunity for your child to be listened to. Parenting classes often teach how to have a family meeting, as well as enforce family rules. Find out what is available in your community. When your child knows, without a doubt, that the rules are made with love and concern for him, they are easier to enforce.

Avoiding arguments by communicating effectively and listening to one another is important in all families. Discuss together what each of your needs are in this area and agree to take a time out if needed to avoid shouting. Hand signals for time outs with children often work well.

If there are times when discussion about disagreements are not appropriate, agree to set aside time later to talk things over calmly. Agree that it is OK to disagree until solutions are found. Let each other know good times to talk about important family matters and times that are not OK, like before your morning cup of coffee, if you are not a morning person. Some individuals prefer not to have discussions late at night when they are tired.

Make each of your needs known and come to a middle ground on when would be best and where. Ask that the TV or stereo be turned off for conversations if it is a distraction.

Most important, include compliments in all your family conversations. Be positive and recognize what is working well. Let your family discussions be an activity to reinforce the love and concern you share for each other, as well as a method for solving problems that arise. If you continue to have difficulty, seek a family therapist before it gets worse.