Setting Rules to Guide Your Toddler’s Behavior

by | May 29, 2020 | Child development, Parenting, toddler

Watch and listen to Ann McKitrick explain why creating and implementing house rules is important when guiding your toddler’s behavior

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The Importance of House Rules

I want to talk with you a little bit about boundaries and rules that we have in the home for our young children. In preschool programs in large group settings, we always have a set of classroom rules that are posted on the wall, and everybody knows the rules and they know what’s going to happen if you break those rules. At home, we all have our rules, but oftentimes those rules are not quite as visible or even talked about in the same way.

As you are having this concentrated time at home with your young children, I want to encourage you to talk about what your rules are as a family. Put those rules up in a place where everybody can see them, particularly the children who are following the rules, so that they know what those rules mean and the details about those rules.

Big Rules

One thing that we think about with rules and young children is that there’s big rules and then there’s little rules. We want to focus on the big rules. You, as the parent, need to think about what the rules are. What are the things that you care about? What are the things that matter most in your home and for your family? After answering those questions, you will find the rules that you would want to include.

One important note is that with really young children, you only need a few rules, maybe three or four at the most. If you have a long list of rules, it’s going to be too much.

I have four examples of big rules:

  • Follow directions. That would be the big rule. The little rules associated with that would be anytime you ask your child to do something, like put their toys in the basket or take their cup and put it in the sink or whatever it is that you’ve asked them to do.You are asking them to follow the big rule of following directions.
  • Be kind. A little rule around that is we don’t hit our brothers or sisters. We don’t pull our cat’s tail. We don’t bite. All of those things are all underneath the big rule umbrella of be kind.
  • Gentle touches. This would cover not hitting, pushing, or grabbing too hard, which is something that young children do.
  • Play. Kids learn through play.This is the thing that’s going to make them feel safe and secure during times of stress and insecurity that they can feel from us. They need to know that they are safe, that you’re taking care of them and watching them


The house rules that we have create boundaries that make the children feel safe. This is what we need to provide for them in our home.

Meet Ann

I'm a child development specialist, parent coach and teacher trainer. I've cared for countless babies in child development programs, plus 3 kids, 3 grand babies and 5 foster babies! I LOVE babies and would come hold yours if I could. ❤️

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