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House Rules for Children with Oppositional Defiant Behavior

There are hundreds of ways to present and describe house rules, but there are only a few core issues. In dealing with defiant child behavior, providing a lot of structure is paramount. Putting this structure in the form of a detailed “house rules” list will be your key to successful behavior modification.

When drafting your list, be sure to use the child’s first name rather than the word “you” (e.g., “Michael is expected to …..” rather than “YOU are expected to …..”). Also, use the word “will” rather than “may” (e.g., “Parents will specify a time for …..” rather than “Parents may specify a time for …..”).

The following are rules that moms and dads should consider for children with oppositional defiant behavior:

1. Michael is expected to be a self-manager. As his parents, we will become involved at the appropriate level of need, become more involved as necessary, and help Michael when he appears to need help. Michael’s behavior determines whether or not we need to make decisions for him and give him more directions.

2. Michael is not an adult yet, and has no authority over his parents. That means he has some choices and some freedom, but only those that his parents give him. We have a responsibility to raise Michael the best we know how.

3. Michael is to follow directions and requests made by his parents. We will discuss the matter and explain our reasons, but we are not required to explain or justify our decisions.

4. Michael has a legal “right” to adequate food, shelter, education, health care, clothing and protection from abuse. Michael’s parents are not required to give him anything else. However, we will provide Michael with some luxuries, but they will be considered “privileges” – not rights – and must be earned.

5. Michael must ask for permission at least 24 hours in advance in order to go out at night, participate in unscheduled activities, or stay over at a friend’s house. Parents will usually give permission, but we will say ‘no’ if a 24-hour notice is not given.

6. Michael is required to come to dinner and family meetings on time and wait until excused from the meeting or meal.

7. Michael will be required to discuss inappropriate behavior when this is pointed out by his parents. He will talk with us to resolve problems and misunderstandings as they arise.

8. Michael will do assigned house chores to earn privileges. Also, we will give him some extra chores that are paid, but he will not be paid for work that is not completed on time or as specified.

9. Michael will eat regular, nutritious and balanced meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Failure to eat properly is unhealthy and self-harming.

10. Michael will get up for school or work on time. Parents will specify a time and will help him get up if he is late or not on time.

11. Michael will not carry, hold or use drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Also, he will not ride in a car with anyone using - or under the influence of - drugs or alcohol.

12. Michael will not use physical force, spit, break, or throw anything to get what he wants or to hurt someone.

13. Michael will not take or use things that belong to others without permission. He will return all borrowed items as agreed – and in the condition he found it.

14. Homework will be completed on time and turned in to teachers. Parents will designate when and what must be done if Michael fails to manage this responsibility.

15. Hygiene will be daily and at an appropriate time. Parents will designate what must be done and will become more directive if Michael fails to manage this responsibility.

16. No friends will be allowed in the house without permission or unless a parent is present who gives permission. We can designate who can come into the house without permission during appropriate times.

17. The internet will not be used except for school, educational-related activities, and for e-mail to known friends and family. We will have access to the computer and will monitor all e-mail and internet use.

18. There will be no phone calls after 10:00 pm or before 8:00 am.

19. There will be no use of profanity, cruel, sarcastic or insulting remarks.

20. There will be no use of the car or outside activities (e.g., sports, parties, etc.) if the average grade in any class during a semester is lower than a "C". Also, Michael must maintain a "B" average to use a car.

21. There will be no visitors in the house after 9:30 pm without 24-hour notice and a parent’s permission. Also, Michael will be home at a designated time.

Failure to comply with the above rules will result in loss of privileges and/or grounding. Depending on the severity of the violation, privileges will be withheld anywhere from 1 to 7 days.


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