Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Importance of House Rules/Chore Lists for kids with Trust Disorders and RAD

by John and Diane

Having and posting house rules in any home with children is useful, but in a foster home or in a home with RAD kids or children with Trust Disorders it is especially important.

House rules and written chore lists provide a feeling of safety and security to enhance a loving and trusting environment vital to RAD and TD kids.They, especially, need to prepare themselves for each day and enjoy a routine they can count on so that they can feel safe and secure.

Develop your house rules with the natural flow of the day and the household in mind. Start with the morning activities and grooming and end with bedtime. Include interactions with others in the house, and pet care.
The presence of the house rules and chore lists allows and insures equal justice for all the kids in the house. Everyone in the house is aware of the rules and can point out other kids breaking the rules or inconsistencies in the rules to the caregiver. RAD and TD kids always feel like they are being cheated and this allows them to feel like have recourse in the house.

When a foster child first the enters the house, you go over the rules with them and make sure they understand them. Rules are posted in the home, and each child is given a copy. Kids are asked to sign a copy of the rules and an agreement with the parent that the parent can search the child’s room (amongst other things to be discussed in later posts) and enforce the rules.

There is also a disciplinary chart and a reward chart. Again, giving the RAD and TD child a clear understanding of what to expect, therefore helping to build a sense of situational security and safety. (We will discuss these charts later as well.)

House rules may be adjusted to the child’s abilities to follow the rules (for example, ability to clean his or her room.) It must be explained that the house rules are not there as a punishment but as a way to help everyone get along in the house and to create harmony. It is not wrong or being “mean” to say to someone in the house “I am sorry honey, but you broke the house rule and you have to be punished because it is not fair to the other people in the house that you didn’t follow the rules.”

Never refer to the house rules in an angry fashion, but in a sincere, “teaching moment” fashion. This way the child doesn’t resent the presence of the house rules, but sees them as a guide to live peacefully with others as part of a family.

Follow up on the discussion of the breaking of the house rules with the Love and Logic or 123 Magic systems, but begin the initial discussion of the breaking of the house rules in this calm manner.

The other benefit of the House Rules is that they extend to friends of the children. When a friend visits, they, too, are instructed of the rules, and thereby feel safe in the home, and have a clear understanding of what behavior is expected of them, and others in the house.

Always have as the last thing on the House Rules list, “ Rules can be Modified by (your name)” as undoubtedly you will need to modify them, and one of your kids (a future lawyer) will tell you that you can’t unless you have this on the sheet. Be prepared to defend this stance.

Here are our house rules you can use as an example:
Make your bed
Clean your bedroom
Get dressed
Turn off your Lights and night light
Eat breakfast
Brush your teeth.
Make sure you have everything you need for school or work before you leave the house.
Go to school/go play
Do homework
Put your clean clothes away and bring back your basket to the laundry room. Dump your dirty clothes in the laundry room on laundry day.
Do chores that are asked of you
Take a bath or shower before bedtime when told.
Clean your bedroom.
Brush your teeth
Go to bed and be quiet and turn off your lights you may have a nightlight.
John will check your bedroom each day they must be as neat as possible based on your age and abilities will check all bedrooms.

Do not steal
Do not lie
Do not swear
Do not fight
Do not back talk to adults
Do not enter other people’s bedrooms without permission from John.
Always knock on the bathroom door before entering, wash hand after using, flush toilet, and put toilet seat down.
Always pick up your toys or anything you were using and put them back.
Always ask before taking food. Pop/ juices/milk can only be drank at mealtime. All other times. water is available for you to drink.
Do not eat in your bedroom or any other room other then the kitchen and dining room area with out permission from John. Always put your dishes away.
No cell phone or computers in the bedroom after bedtime.
John can modify any of these rules at any time.

flickr: License Attribution Some rights reserved by DrGBB


  1. One of the best things to happen in my home and family is establishing written rules with a chart showing behaviors, consequences and rewards. 4 months since we began on a fairly strict plan and has minimised the chaos, arguing, fighting and mess profoundly. we have adjusted here and there but soo important for kids to know what is expected. Makes them accountable for their choices and takes the blame game out of it. I do not know what RAD is but my children's issues are ADHD, ODD, and unspec. mood disorder and the very structured enviroment seems to work out well so far.

  2. I am glad you found that house rules are very successful in your home. It doesnt surprise me, because we run a group home here, and we work with the same types of kids, and we have found that house rules work well with kids with all those issues (RAD stands for Reactive Detachment Disorder so, its like a trust disorder) and work well with "normal" children too to help with the harmony of the house. We found with younger children or with kids with learning difficulties pictures or illustrations on the house rules and chores lists helps them read and recognize the list.
    We also have a rewards and consequence list, and its great to see you do too! I have found that we have to be very specific with the definition of our consequences, like, what does it mean to be "grounded."
    Good luck and may the Lord Bless you with your efforts-
    Please, check out our Facebook page too and "like" us! Thanks!

  3. I tried this with my 8 year old step-daughter. Unfotunately though, her bio-dad feels that she should be treated as a normal child and be able to lie and steal without any reprucisson. He feels that she is being picked on and that I am constantly being mean to her. I don't just have the problem of dealing with a RAD step-child, I also have to deal with her father who is in disbelief. He goes to work all day and I'm with her at home. She easily manipulates us against each other and is completely satisfied when we fight because of her. I'm all alone dealing with this.

    1. A lot of parents have this same issue. One parent will see it, and the other won’t. I feel bad for you. Until your husband understands the manipulative behavior the child wins. If I were you, I would “fall back.” I would say to your husband, “Obviously you believe your daughter more than you do me, and so I will just do whatever you want …you married me to be the child’s “yes” person.” This is more of a marital issue than it is an issue with the child. First you have to address the trust issues with your husband believing in the child over you. RAD children cannot be helped if there are trust issues between parents or between parents and counselors. Only by being strong together can you help the child.

      The only way you can handle this yourself is to give the child the cold shoulder, isolate her. Do just the basic necessities for her until the child feels that she has to cajole you, and manipulate you into “liking her.” So. For example, buy a cheaper brand of cereal, something she may not like, put it on the table, in the box, with a bowl and the milk, don’t serve it to her, leave the room. Don’t smile at her. Keep this up, do just the minimum. The child will start to ask you what’s wrong. Say “nothing.” The child will start to want to make you “like” her; she’ll start acting nice, doing good things, to manipulate you into doing nice things for you. This way you get the good behavior, through your own manipulation. I know it sounds harsh, but it will work. Try it and let me know.

  4. I love these rules, but have the same issue my husband is not able to stay calm when the rules are broken, he yells and loses his temper so my daughter gets away with them. He maintains she is trouble and is not open to changing his response and following through. So the rules are not helping. I stay calm and restate the rules but consequences are difficult to enforce because of the chaotic response. Thanks for the info.

    1. Thats a tough situation. If your husband can't handle it, ask him to leave it to you then. Tell him to excuse himself from the situation, and leave the handling of the incident and rules/consequences to you. (since that's what is happening anyway, right?) This removes him from being a tool of manipulation from the daughter - take away HIS power over the daughter. ... Also- it's not good for the daughter to hear that he feels she is Just Trouble. If he puts a label on her, she is less likely to change her behavior. ... So, my friend, it, as it often does, falls to You. Take control, - take the reigns, and you can make some progress. Hang in there!

  5. Can you share your disciplinary and reward charts as well? I'm looking into doing foster care for teenagers but we're all so welcoming ages 7 and up.

    1. They are on our Facebook page under the Photo section :) Check them out. Thank you for doing Foster care - be careful when mixing teens and younger kids. Be sure to check out our recommendations on that. Please be sure you have separate rooms for each child and CLOSELY monitor all the children. I would recommend cameras in public areas . Please read our blogs on mixing Bio and Foster kids to see some of our issues with kids of different age groups. Good luck to you!