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A Decade of Lessons in Parenting

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Lesson #6: Set Certain Expectations in Stone
 

And start early. If table manners are your thing, begin before they're old enough to know the difference. I'm a big fan of making proclamations to one's children ex cathedra—style: Thou Shalt Write Thank-You Notes, for example. Meet all protests with the same attitude you take toward the car seats—it's non-negotiable, these are the rules, and that is that.

It's never too late to start. Set a standard—your kids won't know it's arbitrary—like the one I came up with for Thad on his birthday. ("When you're four, you get a new chore. Yours is clearing your plate.") Birthdays are convenient times to lay down the law; I usually grant one privilege (a slightly later bedtime, for instance) and impose one new age-appropriate responsibility (a job I hate, like sorting socks or unloading the dishwasher) per year. If everything works according to plan, by the time they grow up, I'll be completely superfluous.

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