Sunday, December 20, 2009

The 21 Rules Of This House by Gregg Harris

The 21 Rules of This House, listed below, cover just about every situation common to young children and teens. They were developed over 30 years ago to help my wife and me be more consistent in what we required of our children as members of our household. It is so easy to allow our own moods to change the boundaries of what we will tolerate from one day to the next. In far too many homes the only real rule is to stay out of Mom or Dad's way when they are in a bad mood. Otherwise, when they are in agood mood, the kids can get away with almost anything. The goal in the use of the 21 Rules is to clarify what is pleasing and displeasing to parents, regardless of their moods, and to administer discipline without anger, and then only in response to willful defiance of what the child knows to be right.

My oldest son, Joshua Harris, now a respected author and pastor, illustrated each house rule for a coloring book when he was just 14 years old. We published it successfully for many years. Used copies are still available occasionally through's Used Book search engine. I post them here in response to many requests from families with younger children.

The 21 Rules Of This House
by Gregg Harris

1. We obey God.
2. We love, honor and pray for one another.
3. We tell the truth.
4. We consider one another's interests ahead of our own.
5. We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
6. We do not hurt one another with unkind words or deeds.
7. When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
8. When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
9. When someone is sad, we comfort him.
10. When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
11. When we have something nice to share, we share it.
12. When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
13. We take good care of everything that God has given us.
14. We do not create unnecessary work for others.
15. When we open something, we close it.
16. When we take something out, we put it away.
17. When we turn something on, we turn it off.
18. When we make a mess, we clean it up.
19. When we do not know what to do, we ask.
20. When we go out, we act just as if we were in this house.
21. When we disobey or forget any of the 21 Rules of This House, we accept the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Instructions: Post the list on your refrigerator door or other prominent location in your home. When misbehavior occurs, draw attention to which House Rule has been violated and repeat the rule a few timesand explain what it means. Once the meaning becomes clear, discipline your child for any expressions of willful defiance. Over time, the rules will be internalized by each child as a general statement of the behavioral boundaries. Remember that these rules follow you and your child wherever they go. Discipline should only be administered in private, in love for the child, never in anger or in any way that would ever do harm. The challenge is to be consistent so that such discipline is eventually no longer needed.


Shannon said...

These are really great! I was convicted (as the mom!) about breaking some of these rules in our house. I want to work on these, and use them to train our kids.

Carpenter Family Life said...

I was just talking to my husband about your rules you mentioned on the book I am reading. So glad you posted these.

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Lisa Wright said...


Thank you so much for how you continue to inspire, encourage and teach us. Your teaching is what inspired my husband and I to homeschool our children (2 are now graduated from college) and the fruit in their lives is such a blessing to our family.

May God continue to bless you and to use your gift for His glory.


Connie said...

I began teaching these rules 16 years ago when my youngest was 5, also using Uncommon Courtesy for Kids and Rules for Young Friends. My 17 year-old came home from a conference yesterday and thanked my husband and myself for being awesome parents. He said, "The speaker was speaking about the lost courtesies that need to be revived and as he listed them - being thankful, opening doors for people - I thought, 'I do all those things, what good parents I have.'" God gets the glory, because He patiently leads us as parents and leads our children through us. I am grateful for the discipleship I received and these easy to use materials, which I am still using today to train my 10 and 8 year olds. Thank-you.

CG said...

Thank you for this list. I've printed it out and framed it. We refer to them often and have seen some positive changes in behavior in just one day of consistently following them. You're right- It's so easy to discipline and instruct only when it's convenient or we're not in a great mood. This also helped us to define specific wrongs in our childrens' eyes. Instead of, "You're not loving your brother" (which we say all day long) we now go to the list and re-read the rule about speaking respectfully to one another, or not harming one another physically or with words. We move on to #21, say a prayer, and then "re-do" things the right way. I also find myself being more aware of MY actions, tone of voice, etc. Thank you once again!

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Varenikje said...

Well, I can't seem to figure out another way to do this, so here goes. A long, long time ago, I listened to you speak and it seems to me that you suggested a book that recommended that children have a quiet time in their day. This may or may not be a nap, but at least a quiet time where the child would read or do something else that was quiet. Can you think of what book it is that you were suggesting? At the risk of dating myself, this would have been about, oh, 20 or more years ago. Somewhere around there. So, this is kind of a quiz: do you remember?

Lisa @ Me & My House said...

We still have (and use) the original 21 Rules illustrated by Josh, that we purchased from you when they first came out. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

What kind of discipline should be done... im at a loss ie.. how to go about the discipling.. time out. taking things away?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Discipline comes from the word disciple and we must always understand it as teaching - not punishment.

Rather than removing priveleges, think of how you could help the child learn how to follow the rule by giving them the tools they need to be able to be successful in that area of their life.

Remember - children are learning, not doing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Unknown said...

I was introduced to your 21 Rules 20 years ago and want to pass them on to the younger generation. Is there a way to buy the 21 Rules in a laminated form that is separate from buying the book? I would like to give them out at a Young Moms brunch.


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Janie Clawson said...

I read an article about this in Texas Homeschool Review by Holly Williams Urbach.I have sent several out to friends via email.I wish I had known and applied these principles when my five children were growing up.Thank you so much.

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Anonymous said...

Hi, Gregg.
I had a copyright question about the 21 Rules of This House. What does it mean when you say that the original purchaser can make copies? What does that mean to someone who bought the book second hand? - Like me...
Also, what happened to noble books?
Thanks JMH

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