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A guideline for my kids

My kids are very independent. This isn’t a humblebrag; I’m sure I could stand to be a bit more managerial as a mom. But I was raised in a household of independent people, and past a certain age— the age where we children had largely figured out what will or won’t immediately kill us and policed ourselves accordingly— the kids and parents moved into a sort of roommate situation.

I don’t recall having feelings on it one way or the other as a kid, but looking back, my siblings and I turned out fairly great, which seemed like a good testimonial when considering how to parent my own kids.

I am really not into micromanaging my kids (or anyone) and I believe that to do so would hamper their ability to learn how to Do Life without me. That is my real job, after all: to prepare them for a world without me. To teach them coping skills, the difference between right and wrong and what to do when you’re not sure, and that it’s important to keep yo’ ass clean.

As a parent, I’m pretty happy with this way of life. We have a good routine where they mostly know what to do and I’m there for support or teaching or reminder. I remind the 13yo that it’s Tuesday, which is his laundry day; I don’t do his laundry for him. I explain to my 10yo why her room is a goddamn fire hazard; I don’t clean it for her. I help them figure out how to fix or atone for mistakes; I don’t make sure they never commit them. I remind them about consequences and flex on ’em when I absolutely have to, which is pretty rarely. It works for us.

Occasionally though, I may slip on guidance and/or assume they’ve got their shit handled better than they actually do. Or they just go a little kid-ham, as kids do. This past February was one of those times. Just endless entitlement and tomfoolery out the ass, plus I assumed way too much about their capabilities. I honestly can’t remember the details (one of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever seen was “have a short memory”) but it was a pretty rough time and it became clear we needed A Reckoning. Entitlement is something I cannot abide and I want them to understand what earning things means. I also wanted them to understand their responsibilities to both the world and our household. Most importantly, I think, I wanted them to know that part of their job as a human who is constantly growing is to ask for help or guidance when you need it. At the end of the day, them slipping is mostly my fault, but also I can’t help if I don’t know they need it.

So I wrote a thing and we discussed what it all means and they signed it. It now hangs on the fridge and their respective bedroom doors.

You will maintain good grades in school.

You are a smart and capable person who is not lazy. You will be respectful to teachers and pay attention in class. If you are having trouble with a subject, class, or piece of homework, you will ask for help, and I will help. If all those things remain true, keeping your grades up should be easy.

You will respect our home and the things in it.

Your room will stay clean. You will contribute to our household by doing the chores I ask, and doing them well. You will treat all our household possessions, and your own possessions, with respect, because you understand that someone (maybe even you) had to work hard to provide them for you, and that to disrespect the item is to disrespect that person (yes, even yourself!).

You will not lie, cheat, or steal.

Because you know the difference between right and wrong. If you aren’t sure, you will ask for guidance, and I will help.

You will treat everyone with respect (including yourself).

In times of disagreement you will remain calm and work towards a solution. If you need help, you will talk to me. You certainly will not bully or pressure anyone into something you want.

You are grateful for all the extras you earn or that are gifted to you.

You will not take for granted all the fun and amazing things you may be offered and/or receive in this life. You will continually work to earn them and be the kind of person who appreciates the nice things they have earned, or were gifted.

These are general expectations.

Most problems or events in your life will fall into the above categories. If there is a specific area or problem in your life where you are not sure what the expectation is, you will ask me.

If these expectations are met, you earn trust. With trust, you receive freedoms and bonuses that will make your life more fun.

Every parent who has visited my home has commented on it and asked for a copy, so I thought I’d share here. Downloadable as a .docx so you can edit however you see fit and not have to type this entire damn thing over again.

Then, as a supplement to that, and so we would all get in the habit of checking ourselves and each other, I made a Daily Reflection Sheet (also .docx when you click). As a house full of independent and introverted people, talking about this stuff seriously just doesn’t occur to us. So this covered a few bases: Give the kids a way to remember they had an issue, to remember they can ask me for help without judgment, to reflect on their general goodness, and to ponder how they can improve as humans. Also, managerial stuff like prompting them to give me school papers I needed to see before 6:59am the day they were due, BECAUSE OH MY GOD THAT IS MADDENING.

They had to fill this out every single day for a few weeks until self-reflection and help-seeking became more of a habit.

Good luck and happy parenting! Oh hey, and if you extend or modify this, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Disclaimer:This is what works for me and my kids. I’m not claiming to be a parenting expert or psychologist or anything but a parent trying to raise decent humans. If you don’t like this guide or sheet or whole post or me, I don’t care. 




  1. This is pretty terrific. Thanks for sharing.

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