Define Your Parenting Principles

A great parent needs to know what they stand for. They need to know their own values, their beliefs, what kind of parent they want to be, and what kind of child they want to raise.

A drifting parent goes with the flow and merely reacts to life and to their children. They do not proactively determine what they want their family to look like. They don’t set the tone.

This laid-back attitude sets up their children for confusion.

Kids with this kind of parent don’t know what Mom or Dad want. Their fences aren’t clearly defined. One day they can get away with talking back and the next day, Dad grounds them for a week when they’re two minutes past curfew. What gives?

The Fence Analogy

The fence analogy shows us there is freedom in having clearly defined rules.

One study looked at what would happen if the school yard fence was removed. The researchers thought that the lack of fence would give the children more freedom and encourage them to explore. However, they were surprised to find that the children did not explore. They did not take advantage of their freedom. In fact, the children stayed close to the school. They only used the entire field when their playground had a fence around it.

I’m the same way with railings. If I had to walk over a bridge without rails, I would walk in the very middle of it. But a railing makes me feel much safer and I would be comfortable approaching the rail, even leaning on it to look over the side.

When a parent has clearly defined parenting principles, they can form clearly defined rules for their children. Children crave routine and familiarity. When clear boundaries and expectations are set by their parents, children tend to be much happier. They feel more secure. They know where the fence is and that the fence provides safety. But it all starts with you, the parent.

Recipe for Tool #15:


  • Beliefs and principles you value
  • Boundaries to be set

Step 1 – What Do You Believe?

Parenting principles are best based upon the things you already believe in. If you believe we should all respect each other, you will want your children to respect you, each other, and everyone around them. If you believe that we all need to take responsibility for our actions, you will create rules for your child that demand responsibility.

Begin by identifying what principles are most important to you.

Write them all out on paper.

Organize them by order of importance

Pick 4 as your families guiding principles

Step 2 – Imagine Your Child as an Adult

Imagine the adult you want your child to become. How will you get them from here to there? By letting them play unlimited video games and allowing them to boss around their siblings? By not helping around the house? By getting whatever they want whenever they want it?

A successful, hard-working adult who respects others is created through the firm boundaries a parent has placed upon them early on in childhood. Boundaries that required a child to always do their best and respect other people.

Step 3 – Define the Boundaries

With your principles defined and your goals in mind, sit down and decide which boundaries need to be set in place for your child to feel safe and secure while they explore what it means to live within your principles. Give them the opportunity to explore the whole field while knowing exactly where the fence is.

Hold firm to your rules, knowing that they are based on your principles and your desire for you child to grow up to be a person others will also appreciate.

Defining our principles is the first step to creating a good environment for our children. By knowing what you stand for, you can more effectively help your kids grow into independent adults you will be proud of.


HB is a roller coaster father, one minute he is ecstatic about his children, the next he wonders if life will ever get any better. A long standing member of the 'I yell at my kids' club, he writes with passion and an analytical mind. Dissecting and separating the nuanced strategies that make a good parent great. He experiments with parenting techniques on his 3 year old so you don't have to.

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