When you reflect on your role as a mom, what objectives seem most important to you? Very few moms would disagree that it’s important to try and raise our children to be loving, happy and responsible adults. Although we all have different ideas on how we’re going to do that, there is a general consensus that having a loving, peaceful, organized and fun family environment sure makes success as a mom more likely.

When you think about all the factors that can prevent us from achieving these two objectives, it can seem quite overwhelming. We live in a fast paced world and finding time for everything can be a challenge. The more family members we have, the more complicated family dynamics become. And I think the most difficult factor we face is the external pressures and the outside influences of the world. It is not easy raising children in this day and age.

The good news is you can raise great kids if you are equipped with the right tools and information. Focus on building your children's' self esteem and you will raise happy and successful children. And to develop their self esteem, children need three things: attention, autonomy, and limits. Children need to know they are worthy of love and they need to be taken care of. They need to gradually develop so they function independently from their parents. And children need boundaries so they learn proper behavior and develop healthy self esteem.

You provide your children with the attention they need by showing them affection, playing with them and making sure their physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs are taken care of. By providing structure in your home, you are setting up the environment needed for your children to learn about autonomy and limits. Family rules are a very important component of family structure. They teach your children the skills and character traits needed for healthy self esteem. Rules provide the boundaries for how your children are expected to behave. And lastly, they keep your children safe and your family environment orderly and peaceful.

Kenneth Kaye, Ph.D., in his book Family Rules, provides a six step process for setting family rules:

1. Make a list of behavior problems or important concerns you are dealing with in your family.
2. For these problems or concerns, together as parents, create and write down the rules that will enforce the behavior that you want to see. Start with just a few rules in the beginning.
3. For each rule, think of and write down a logical or natural consequence for breaking the rule.
4. Formally present the rules to your children.
5. Follow through with consequences if they test the rules.
6. Amend the rules as necessary and amend or escalate the consequences as necessary.

One of the most interesting discoveries I made in Dr. Kaye's book was the difference between rules and preferences. Let me give you a few examples of each and then I will explain the difference. Examples of rules may be "You may not hit, kick or call your sibling names" or "You must be home at the time we set for you". Examples of preferences are "We prefer you use your manners" and "We prefer you spend your money wisely".

Here are the major differences between rules and preferences. Mom and Dad have to agree on the rules, but they do not have to agree on preferences. Mom may allow only one friend over at a time, but Dad may enjoy a house full of children. However, if the rule of the house is no eating in the family room, then both parents must agree to issue a consequence if the rule is broken.

Rules require consistency and must be clear and specific. Preferences can be vague and do not require consistency. If a rule is broken, a consequence is issued every time. With preferences, you prefer your child do something a certain way, but it's left up to your child's discretion. There is no consequence if your child does not do things the way you would prefer. When my four year old has a playmate over, I prefer he says hello and goodbye to them. I encourage him to use his manners and I explain why I think it's important, but there is no consequence if he doesn't. On the other hand, if he hits or pushes his playmate, there would be an automatic time out. Generally speaking, rules provide structure, peace, safety and convenience, whereas, preferences teach children moral education, social skills and positive feelings about themselves and others.

Now that you understand how best to set family rules, I would suggest you post your family rules so everyone can see them. Remember, enforcing the rules requires issuing a consequence every time the rule is broken. The best consequences are ones that restrict privileges. The more natural and logical the consequence, the better it is. If a child behaves responsibly, he is rewarded with privileges, and he loses privileges if he breaks the rules. One thing I have found that helps take the emotion out of issuing consequences is the Better Behavior Wheel. This is a great tool for teaching kids about the consequences for their actions.

So take the time to devise a set of family rules that will evolve as your family grows and develops. By doing this, you are providing your children with the best opportunity for success. After all, you want your children to grow up and feel good about who they are, treat others with love, and respect, and live with healthy limits. With all the insecurities your children will face, they need the security of a loving, attentive, and structured family environment. Strive for excellence as a parent and you will raise excellent children.

Author's Bio: 

Lori Radun, CEC – certified life coach for moms. To receive her FREE newsletter for moms, and the FREE special report, “155 Things Moms Can Do To Raise Great Children”, go to http://www.true2youlifecoaching.com