Setting boundaries teaches kids that the world doesn't revolve around them; they also have to consider others with their actions. Moreover, "if they can't follow your house rules, they won't be able to do it in kindergarten and beyond," says Dr. Schweiger. "By allowing them to do whatever they want, without consequences, you're setting them up for failure later on. So it's important to instill a regard for authority in your little ones, starting at home."
In order to respect your house rules, your kids have to know exactly what they are, so sit down and explain them (post them on the fridge too). Also take the time to talk about why these rules matter. Your child may not immediately understand the connection between respecting the rules and respecting the people who set them and live under them, but you can break it down for him. (Leaving toys out may seem harmless, but it creates a messy household for everyone; roughhousing might seem like fun, but someone could get hurt.) Next, be clear about what will happen if the rules are broken. Finally, be prepared to repeat the rules regularly and to follow through with those consequences if necessary.
Treating others with respect means taking the time to get to know them and trying to see where they're coming from -- even when you don't immediately hit it off. "We make it clear to our kids that they don't have to like everybody, and that not everybody will like them -- and that's okay, as long as they give people a chance," says Heather Lambie, of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Teaching your kid to keep an open mind will serve her well throughout life -- allowing her to discover unusual activities, exciting friends, and fresh ways of looking at things. Start by encouraging her to stretch herself and make a connection with someone new (like the kid who just moved in down the block or a first-time sitter) by finding some similar interests. Sometimes, after spending some time together and hearing the other person's point of view, kids will conclude they don't have that much in common. Your job as the parent? To make it clear that even people your child isn't buddies with deserve kind treatment -- and to introduce the important idea of "agreeing to disagree," says Dr. Schweiger. Kids who understand that there is more than one way to do something or think about something (Jack puts ketchup on everything and Harper hates the stuff, but both ways of doing dinner are okay) will be better problem-solvers in all aspects of their life.