What I have learned from working with multiple families is that every family has its own rules. Those rules determine how people live.
Some of the rules are clearly stated and understood by every family member. Those I call “explicit rules”.
Examples of explicit rules would be something like “Wash your hands before sitting down to dinner”, “Say ‘Thank you’ when someone gives you a gift”, or “Brush your teeth before going to bed”. Those rules are known and talked about by all family members.
Other rules aren’t quite so clear. I call those “implicit rules”. Those aren’t stated but are implied. They’re made by individual family members and may not always match.
If all family members are using the same implicit rules, then those are acting as explicit rules. If those implicit rules differ, resentment, anger and stress will most certainly build up.
For example, imagine a father coming home tired after a long, stressful day at work. His implicit rule is “When I come home from work, I must be left alone. I deserve a rest and the chance to watch my favorite show.”
His daughter might have a different rule, “When daddy comes home, I can play with him”. His wife’s rule might be, “When my husband comes home, I can complain to him about my day and our daughter’s behavior.”
Now, when the father comes home and every family member acts according to their own rules, do you see the potential here for disagreement?
I find that many families perform this confusing dance, stepping on each other’s toes and creating unnecessary tension in their family environment instead of figuring out how they could all learn to enjoy being in step.
I encourage you to think about what you’ve just learned. Ask yourself,
- What are my family’s explicit rules?
- Are these rules clear to and understood by all family members?
- What are my family’s implicit rules?
- Do our implicit rules match?
- If they do, should we make them our explicit rules?
- If they don’t, are they likely to cause issues?
Answering these questions will help you better understand your family, making it even stronger and more harmonious.