I was having a conversation with a wise mom recently about the eternal quest to raise children with good values, and we acknowledged 1) how much tougher it is to expect them to know these values if you haven’t been clear about what you want to encourage and what you won’t tolerate, and 2) it is important to get all the adults (parents and other caretakers) on the same page early in the game so that the message is clear and consistent. And so I ask you: What’s in Your Parent Playbook? What are the handful of values/behaviors that you want to be sure your sons and daughters grow up with? When your kids grow and say “Like my mom/dad always said…” how do you want those sentences to end?

In our household my husband and I focused on promoting honesty (you’d get in less trouble for confessing than you would if you were dishonest), and working hard in school (more important than the grade was the effort; doing the absolute best of your ability was the goal). We did not easily tolerate disrespect (being angry was ok, but slamming doors and talking/yelling back were not) and/or being persuaded by friends to do risky/stupid things (When faced with such choices, I wanted my kids to automatically think “My mom would kill me if…” and if the choice made that sentence true, then not to do it). These rules of the road evolved pretty early in our kids’ lives, and we’ve worked hard to stick by them over time.

Different homes will have different values at the top of their list, but the point is, you have to decide what they are and the strategies to communicate and enforce them. You need to make a Parent Playbook. You don’t need to actually write it out (unless you are so inclined) but you do need to have a conversation with yourself and with other caregivers about the most important values you want your children to grow up with. And you have to be consistent in emphasizing and enforcing them, no matter how inconvenient or difficult it turns out to be. If your child breaks one of these family rules and inflicting the punishment has a bad domino effect (like screwing up a family plan or interfering with your plans), it is so tempting to let it slide. But consistency is really key, so you have to suck it up and be consistent.

GCP Parents, what’s in your Parent Playbook? What life lessons do you want to be sure your children get from you, and how do you make sure that happens?