Standards v Rules, isn’t it semantic I hear you say. 

Well yes, maybe, however the opportunity is that rules are easy to break.  They are easy to argue about.  They are easy to be ignored.  Whereas Standards, are aspirational.  What I mean by that is, instead of saying you are not allowed to do X, Y, Z, establishing the standard means that the kids are working towards an agreed outcome.  Meaning that instead of fear of failure being at the centre, they get to feel a lot more in control of their efforts towards the desired outcome.

Rule – one of a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere.

Standard – a level of quality or attainment. An idea or thing used as a measure, norm or model in comparative evaluations.

By definition alone you can see that rules are very forceful and demeaning. In fact, if you were to reference a thesaurus for synonyms for words used in the definition, you would also find words such as “command”, “controlling” and “dominant”. Individuals are forced to bow DOWN and abide by a set of rules they may not even agree with. On the contrary, if you did a similar search for standards you would find words such as “character”, “individuality”, “genius”, and “virtue”. In this case, individuals rise UP in the situation to increase their likelihood of success. Thus, by definition alone, rules are negative, while standards are positive.


 Positive Parenting Perspective

From the perspective of Positive Parenting, the thesaurus synonyms give us clear guidance on which form of boundaries are healthier in building our child/ren’s skills for the future.

Like all things parenting, it’s also appreciating and incorporating age appropriate expectations.  Amazingly, kids can generally conform to expectations that are clear and that they understand and are capable of.

When exploring an overall system for creating success at home, Standards are part of creating the Environment of the Critical Alignment Model (Meta DynamicsTM).  It’s the strategic level of defining what success looks like for you (me, us). 

Before defining the standards, it is important to understand what is the end state that the family is aspiring to.  Like all great systems is to start with the end in mind.  What you want the family to look like and how do you want to experience life in your family. 



Foundation Steps necessary before deciding the STANDARDS.



How do you want the family to be?  Ie Develop the Vision that represents how you want to live.   

good vision statement should be short, simple, specific to your  family.

As part of the process, consider, what is important about that, ie why is it important for the family to be like that?



In order to create that vision, what is the mission?  

Mission must be feasible and attainable. 

mission statement is focused on the practice of what you need to be doing, in order to move towards achieving the vision.  

EG the mission statement for ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ is to use television to transform people’s lives, to make viewers see themselves differently and to bring happiness and a sense of fulfillment into every home.”

good mission statement can surprise, inspire, and transform.


The vision and mission statements provide a focal point that helps to align everyone with the family, thus ensuring that everyone is working towards a single purpose.  Each individual member of the family may have their own goals and objects for their own lives, as well as having a consolidated view of the quality of experience within the family as a whole.




What are the Values that are required in order to live the mission and achieve the vision?

Be creative.  Think further than the good old traditional love, kindness, honesty, loyalty.  Consider these the intrinsic values that we all hold.  Assume that values can be used as a power booster to tap back into succeeding on the mission towards the vision.





  • enable successful achievement of the values, in order to live the mission and create the vision.

  • are less constraining than even “soft” rules. Whereas a rule defines a triggering condition and a consequence, a standard may define a set of relevant considerations and options.

  • In essence, is an agreed way of doing something


The last piece of the puzzle for enabling, empowering and succeeding with standards are attitudes. 

All these elements are about creating the WHO are we BEING. 

As humans we can get stuck in the what are we doing.  However, when we focus on who are we being, that becomes much less about “in the moment” and much more about the whole of living.  It supports the creation of Character, which transcends the day to day, moment to moment issues.



Doesn’t happen in a moment.  It’s about the constant and never-ending evolution towards becoming the best version of ourselves. 

When we know where we are headed, we can check in to see whether who we are being is supporting the mission we are on.

Standards are what supports us to know whether there is opportunity for improvement.  It’s the canary in the coal mine of whether we are on track or not towards that vision when we take the time to reflect.


If you are in the trenches of parenting, come join me in the Conscious and Intentional Parenting Tribe



where you can access tools, strategies and support, to assist you in raising children to become emotionally intelligent to meet the needs of Adulting in the 21st century.



Author – Leanne G Wakeling, Relationship and Communication Coach, Parenting Mentor, Behaviour and Thinking Styles Profiler

 18 January 2020