Welcome to Summer, Kids: Here Are the Rules

Too cool for something.When you brought that baby home from the hospital, all you could think of was how great it would be if they slept more than two hours a night, right? Come on, you can tell me; I know because I felt the same way. Fast forward 14 years and the story is different. Very, very different.

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I have a couple of really great kids; they stay out of trouble (I mean at other people's homes), get along with one another (for the most part), get good grades and are on their way to becoming upstanding citizens of the world. However, you might not get that impression if you were to pay a visit to my house this summer. With my kids sleeping past noon and paper wrappers and dishes everywhere, you might actually mistake my piece of suburban real estate for a frat house. That is precisely what prompted my husband to draw up a contract, detailing the following "rules" for the next several weeks of summer.

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1. Turn off the lights when you leave a room! I'm not sure why we even need to say this but for some reason our kids seem to think the lights in our 100+ year-old house are on a new-fangled timer. They are not, so this is a constant refrain in our home. Next step: Showing them the electric bill and the portion that will come out of their allowance.

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2. If you make a mess (especially in the kitchen) clean it up right away! My two cherubs have yet to understand the concept of "clean-as-you-go". Perhaps that's because they don't do the majority of the cleaning. Not that we're going to make them scrub their summer away but they do need to pitch in much more than they currently are.

3. All sleepovers must be approved by mom or dad. Absolutely. Yes. This must happen. And then mom must tell dad that she gave approval. Oops. My bad.

4. If you use the last of something, throw the package or carton away. I know this sounds like a sitcom script but I can assure you this actually happens. This was my husband's way of explaining to them that we don't know what to replenish if we don't know it's empty. They'll learn the hard way.

5. When you have dirty clothes, throw them down the basement stairs, not over the railing. My children have been doing a good job of handling the laundry, a skill that will come in handy when they leave this house in a few years. But Casey and Cole have been throwing it over the railing as a shortcut. There are two promblems with that: first, the washing machine is actually in the basement. And then there's this:

sock on chandelier

Photo: Rene Syler

(Maybe Cole was trying to help with the badly-needed dusting).

6. Use paper plates and bowls whenever possible. Of all the times for the dishwasher to break, it's the time of year when everyone is eating at home. Yes, we've had repair people out to look at the ultra-fancy machine and they promise it will be fixed soon. But in the meantime, Buff and I see no reason to get dishpan hands, hence the paper plate plea. I know, it's not fancy but it's quick and easy and there's no clean-up, which means everyone can get back to summer's favorite pastime; fanning ourselves on the sofa.

So far, so good with the rules of summer. What do you do to keep order in your house during the unstructured summer months?

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