Mama’s List

Top 10I was listening to NPR the other day and a woman was being interviewed (sorry, didn’t get her name) about her British-born mother who had very definite rules of things one did or didn’t do, or of names for certain items.

For example, you sat on a “sofa,” never a couch; a handbag was simply that, never a “purse”; and there were certain topics one never, ever talked about:

Your health — nobody cares

Your eating habits (vegan, all-carb, high protein) — no one cares

Your route (the way you got to her house when visiting) and the traffic, or lack of, that you encountered along the way.  The interviewer’s mother must’ve been someone “famous” because she spoke of Robert Redford visiting their house when she was a child and taking two hours to describe the route he used to get there.  Surely this was an exaggeration!

This interview got me thinking about rules, the lists of rules we grow up with and the list of rules we pass on to our children if we have them.

In an effort to debunk the interviewee’s world view, several reporters contacted families who habitually talk about their health — and yes, at the dining room table.  The account was both hilarious and disturbing.  One family member said, “That’s just the way my family is; we gather at the table when we’re all together and no topic is off limits.  We love to talk about health and surgeries, discomforts and pains.”

Much of the conversation was scatological, nausea-inducing, or simply inappropriate to my way of thinking.


I began thinking of my own parents and their “list of rules,” and realized they had very few for me.  I never had a curfew, but I knew instinctively what time I should be home so that my parents wouldn’t worry.  I knew I had to get A’s and B’s in school; a C was unacceptable.  I didn’t drink or smoke; experimenting was not an option.  The social change and revolution of the 60’s and 70’s passed me by without event.

As I grew up, however, there were strict rules about behavior in our home.

Pinterest Rules


1.  Dinner was always a sit-down affair and missing was not an option.  Complaints about the food were disrespectful; you ate what was on your plate and weren’t allowed to leave until you did.  My dog Snookie was the receiver of tons of breaded stewed tomatoes (don’t ask) passed to him under the table.  I was a very fussy eater, and often wonder if my parents chose to ignore my tricks for not eating distasteful foods.  Come on, breaded stewed tomatoes!!??   I suspect they picked their battles, as most parents do. 

2.  One had to be excused (from the table or a room) when she was finished or leaving.  She just didn’t get up and leave without permission.  Dishes were cleared and washed (by hand) almost immediately.

3.  Back talk wasn’t allowed; parents were the supreme dispensers of knowledge and the correct way of living.  Of course, by age fourteen, I’d figured I knew far more than my parents because neither had finished high school.  I was the first person in my family to attend and be graduated from college, so a certain edge of sassiness crept into my language.

4.  Beds were made immediately upon rising and clothes were never deposited willy-nilly wherever they were removed.  We never had to wash our own clothes, however, but I suspect that was due more to the fact that the old wringer washing machine was too tricky to negotiate.  My mother lost her ring fingernail when she was a small child in just such a machine, and the nail never grew back.

5.  Waste is a sin, from using too much water in the bath to throwing away paper bags or tin cans.  In my childhood home, recycling was in vogue long before it became a national issue.  Children of the depression learn to be creative to survive.

6.  Music and books are treasures, and my parents did not skimp on them (a trait for which I am eternally grateful).

famly rulesBoth of my parents were inveterate readers, even with their eighth-grade educations, and my dad played a mean guitar.  Blue grass, but I forgave him for that, and somehow turned it into country rock in my head.

The rules for my own children — there being seven rather than three — were fairly simple:

1.  Don’t break anything, especially your sibling’s head.

2.  Be polite to adults and strangers.  All bets are off with family members.

3.  Don’t burn the house down.  We had a phase when my boys burned ants with a magnifying glass, and I’m grateful no one turned out to be a pyromaniac.

4.  Chew your food with your mouth closed.  Seriously. 

5.  Protect those younger or smaller than you.  For the rest of your life.  

6.  Never, ever go to bed at night angry with someone you love.  Even if it means no one sleeps tonight.

What about you?  Any hard and fast rules in your family when you were growing up?  What are basics for the family you’re rearing or the one you live in now?   


A last comment to mention the passing of Peter O’Toole, legendary actor of “Lawrence of Arabia” and one really handsome fellow of my youth.  May you dance with the Devil, Peter!

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  • Jane says:

    Hello Jo,
    We didn’t have any hard and fast rules except maybe the family had to sit down to dinner together. Can’t think of any specific ones.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Jane, I think you should institute a hard and fast rule that the Rooster must NOT sit on top of the Christmas tree! Or otherwise disrupt….no, that won’t fly….sorry… Grins.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Hi, Jane! Congrats on getting the rooster. That fluffy fellow needs lots of rules to keep him in mind, as I’m sure you know.

    I think our generation was definitely more strict about dinner time being family time and we all sat down together with no television blaring in the background.

    It was a great time for family communication.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      You’re so right about that, Jo! It’s harder with kid-schedules for games/practices, etc. than it was when I was growing up, but I still insist on mealtimes together. :>

      • Jo Robertson says:

        Good for you, Jeanne. I know my daughters have a really hard time doing a sit-down dinner with everyone there — lots of sports’ practices, music lessons, and school activities.

  • Amy Conley says:

    Rule number 1-10: NEVER end a sentence with a preposition. This was pounded into our heads both verbally and physically!

    11. Chew with your mouth closed, don’t put your elbows on the table.

    We had lots of rules, many the same as yours and I did pass many of them down to my own children. I think it all stemmed from my great-great grandmother who was British, and didn’t think my great-grandmother was “good enough” for her son, so my great grandmother instilled all these rules into my mother’s head (my mother spent all her extra time with her grandparents) and hence my mother passed all these rules down to us.
    I must admit my own children did know how to behave in public and very often we got compliments about their behavior when we went out to different places. But they knew they had to behave because not behaving wasn’t an option. And all of my grandchildren know how to behave in public also. At home that rule doesn’t exsist, except the one about not breaking anyone’s head open! LOL
    We had curfews but when the boys began going places at night and hubby said they didn’t have to be home any certain time, I was fine with it. When our daughter began going out at night and he tried to tell her she had to be home by a certain time I threw a hissy fit. I told him there are no double standards in our house (the boys as well as the girl all washed dishes, by hand, mowed the grass, raked, vacuumed, etc). So after that they ALL had the same curfew, time depending on if it was a school night or school activity, school year or summer vacation.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Sounds like you had similar rules, Amy. The elbows on the table rule was something I never enforced and now I’m regretful. I’m always catching myself with my elbows on the table. I must look like a heathen LOL.

      Don’t worry about multiple posts. I think our Spam function is screwing up today!

  • Amy Conley says:

    BTW< in our house I was the oldest and I HATED the "BE A GOOD EXAMPLE" rule! I swore I would never use it with my oldest (by 5 minutes). One time I yelled at the boys about something and told them they needed to set a good example for their sister. I walked out of their room and walked right back in and apologized for telling them that. It was hubby's and my job to show her the difference between right and wrong, not her brothers' job. Just like it wasn't my job to "be a good example" to my 4 younger siblings.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Amy, I had to LOL b/c my mother stopped telling my oldest brother that when he set too many “good examples” of how to be bad! Hahahah! “Just showin’ ’em how to do it right, Mama!” he would say.

      She got so mad at him! Hahaha!!

      I loved that you didn’t pass that on, though. It can be a huge burden to the eldest child. (or a huge temptation! SNORK!)

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I agree, Amy. Parents should be the main example for good living to their children. But I can see how influential the oldest child can be on the younger ones. Children get to a stage where siblings and peers have more influence on them than the adults in their lives.

      Fortunately, they outgrow that!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Amy, good for you for not perpetuating that burden.

      Good. For. You.

      I bet your’e a really good mom because you *think* about all those rules instead of just following them because they’re rules.

  • Barb says:

    Hi Jo

    I think I am that British born Mother as I was bought up with a handbag and a sofa lol. Although I live in Australia now where I call something’s different to the Aussies… And I have got to stage where I know two different words and can’t remember which one is English or Aussie lol.

    We were bought up with similar rules and some of them are still applicable today …. Especially manners

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I’m LOL at your “bi-lingual” dilemma. I find the same problem with spelling words. I always write “plough” instead of “plow” and “theatre” instead of “theater.” I know don’t why, but some ancient teacher must’ve instilled that in me. Often, while I’m writing a draft, I find myself switching back and forth. And I’ve never been to the UK!

  • flchen1 says:

    Lots of excellent rules, Jo! I do think that we’re raising our kids with many of the same ones–it’s lots and lots of reminders until some of them start sticking 🙂 I’m thankful to see that my oldest is remembering to answer politely when spoken to, to offer help, to be considerate… Rules help us remember how to be kind to each other 🙂

    • Jo Robertson says:

      So true, Fedora. Where would we be without the (reasonable) rules. That reminds me of Piggy’s line in “The Lord of the Flies” — the rules are all we’ve got!

  • Mary Preston says:

    We had a LOT of rules growing up, but the key element was RESPECT – for everything basically – people, the planet & stuff.

    I had pretty much the same rules for my children &, no false modesty here, I did a GREAT job with them. I not only love my children, but I like and I am proud of them & I will take full credit.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Good for you, Mary! You should be proud — take that credit! How many boys and how many girls do you have.

      I’ve always found rearing girls easier than boys, but that just may be my personality. I have friends who have all girls and they say there’s lots of drama in their houses!

  • Helen says:


    I don’t think we had any strict rules other than to respect everyone eat what was on your plate and never argue with Mum she was always right LOL, with my kids show respect think about other people before yourself be honest and learn to share 🙂

    Have Fun

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Hi, Helen! It’s really just all about being a good person and making the right choices. But disrespect often runs rampant in today’s society. I wonder if our parents thought the same thing?

  • Diana Huffer says:

    Much of the rules were the same in my family. My love of music and reading was instilled by my dad — he had an awesome voice and could play any song on the organ after hearing it only one time. I got a C once and was mortified! 😉 My mom taught me about common sense and haggling over the price of ANYTHING! She was sooo good at it! I don’t think she every paid full price for anything! 🙂 She also taught me how to walk like a lady (yep, the whole book on top of the head thing!), how to eat like a lady (no scrapping utensils on the plates, etc.), and how to love and respect all…

    Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity of raising children myself but I would like to think I would have passed on all this wealth of knowledge… The “rules” became such a big part of my life that they are now the only way to do it! No longer rules, but standards to live by. 🙂

    • Jo Robertson says:

      What a wonderful tribute to your mother, Diana! She sounds like an interesting and delightful person. No one ever taught me to haggle, but I sure wish I had that skill.

  • Shannon says:

    Our father used dinner to occasionally ofter lectures on character. We had them numbered, although I don’t remember the numbers. His absolute favorite was on integrity, that we had a personal code and lived by it. His second favorite was honesty. He saw honesty as black and white, and I was surprised as I left home how that virtue was not always a common one or how honesty could become a weapon in the hands of others. He also had a lecture on not getting a girl pregnant or not getting pregnant. At least two girls in my HS class of 100 dropped out and probably three walked the stage showing. His lecture on marriage is that it wasn’t 50/50 but each side giving 100%.

    By example, he taught us early to rise and to work hard. He rarely made time to play, but when we did it was great fun. He also treasured the past, especially in telling stories.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Interesting dinner-time topics, Shannon, but it sounds like it worked for your family. Your father sounds like one of a time and I’m sure you treasure every moment of the work as well as the fun times.

      Ah, the stories. I still savor the stories my father used to tell and I can see that my grandchildren love to hear Pops’ stories — the one about him facing down a charging bear (TRUE STORY) is a particular favorite.

  • Heathercm2001 says:

    Breaded stewed tomatoes? I would probably sneak them to the dog too.

    I didn’t really require rules when I was younger. I had a pretty good idea of what would get me into trouble and just didn’t do it. However, there were things that have stuck with me. First being the chew with you mouth closed rule. I do not understand how people just completely disregard this.

    We had rules to follow when we were in the car. When you have five kids all squished into one car, rules are pretty much a necessity. The oldest siblings in the car always got to either sit up front, or by the door in the back seat, or in the extra seat way in the back in the station wagon. You know, the seat that faced the back of the car. I was fine with these rules. Being the oldest, they worked in my favor. 🙂

    It’s just me now, so I don’t really have to enforce any rules. However, when I am around my nephews, I make sure they use please and thank you. Just one of those little things that goes a long way.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Yes, Heather, just the thought of those tomatoes make me gag even today.

      I think children naturally eat with their mouths open and it’s something they have to be taught. I remember tending my granddaughter a lot from age 3 on and constantly reminding her to “put her lips together.” She’s almost 15 now and very lovely and poised and mannered.

  • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

    Manners, show your manners. Yes ma’am. no ma’am, stand up straight and tall, please, thank you, clean your plate, there are starving children somewhere, be thankful for what you have, don’t fret about what you don’t have, bottom line, you have what you need. No adult was called by their first names no matter what they said, if you were in my parents age group, you were aunt/uncle, it was a term of respect. You went to school no matter what, no extra curricular activities, you were there to learn, period. That is the first ones that come to mind.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Dianna, my sons balk at the whole, “you never call an elder by their first name” thing as most of their friends DO that. However, in my hearing – lest they face my wrath! – its always Miss or Mrs Smith, or Mr. Smith or Coach Smith. If the adult, drat them, has insisted, “Oh, no, call me Sally” I tell them to call her Miss/Mrs Sally.

      It’s alllllll about respect. My Eldest is coming to realize it gets him BIG brownie points to be respectful so it’s becoming its own reward. Whew!!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Wow, no extra-curricular activities, Dianna? I haven’t heard that one.

      I do regret that yes, ma’m and no ma’m have fallen into disuse. I was raised in the south and it was just a natural expression we used. And yes, sir! Because my dad was military, we always used that term.

      I like hearing teens say yes, instead of yep, yeah, or some other sloppy form of yes, even though I’m guilty myself especially when I text.

  • Jo, I think those were very sensible rules! My parents were absolute sticklers for manners, as were my husband’s so our children have that reinforced constantly. People always comment on how polite they are. When I was growing up, it was a given that you always said please and thank you when ordering and receiving food. Waiters are so surprised that my children do that, it makes me wonder what other children are like!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Other children are unmitigated hell, Christina. Trust me, I’ve been out to restaurants with other people’s children. EEEK!!! Run! The Monsters are HERE!!! (my usual reaction to eating with other people’s children)

      My kids know they’ll get THE LOOK OF DEATH FROM MOM if they don’t say please and thank you.

      And it is very funny to see the servers when they’re thanked by an 8 year old, isn’t it? Or called ma’am? Heeheehee

    • Jo Robertson says:

      LOL, horrible I imagine, Christine! How sweet that your children are so polite. I always made sure my children showed those social niceties too. The best way, of course, is by example. I see parents yelling and their children or swearing around them and then wonder why their kids do the same!

  • Mozette says:

    What about you? Any hard and fast rules in your family when you were growing up? What are basics for the family you’re rearing or the one you live in now?

    I was an avid rule-breaker and barrier breaker too. My folks were Baby-Boomers so talking about period pains and feminine hygiene products caused my father to turn and run in the other direction as fast as Superman can from Kryptonite! I kid you not! My brother, however, was willing to learn about all that stuff because … well… he wanted to get together with a woman and actually keep her in his life. 😀 Good move bro, good move! 😀

    There were the usual manners of:

    Wipe your feet before entering the house

    Don’t put your elbows on the table when you’re eating (especially while you’re out!)

    Excuse yourself when you burp/fart even if you’re alone (it’s good practice for when you’re in company of others).

    When you get food out, offer it to others first before putting some out for yourself.

    When visitors arrive, it’s polite to come out of the cave called ‘your bedroom’ and say hello, even if you’re not invited to sit and hang about with them… then see them off when they leave (unless it’s late and you’re in bed, and then you don’t have to).

    At my Grandma and Grandpa’s house was had to be washed up, dressed and our beds made in the morning before breakfast, say grace at every meal, go to church every Sunday and let Grandpa alone when ‘Dr Who’ came on at 6pm Sunday nights…. they were the hard and fast rules of their house… oh yeah, and never beat him at playing pool… it’s just not the thing to do! Nobody ever beat him – not even me; when I came within 10 points of beating him one time and he played what Grandma called: ‘The huffy-puffy’ game where he acted all tired and limped around the pool table because I was catching up with him… what a sore loser!

    I have rules in my own home:

    No smoking.

    No fighing

    No slamming of doors – unless I’m the one doing it and am angry to do it.

    Wipe your feet at the door and please – if you can – take off your shoes. If you can’t no worries, I’ll vacuum twice this week.

    Please wash your hands before each meal with soap.

    Please wash your hands after using my toilet and put the toilet lid down and close the downstairs toilet door… as it’s very close to my kitchen and I don’t want the germs from there coming into my kitchen.

    Close all screen doors in my house as leaving them open invites fly-in cockroaches and massive Huntsman Spiders (or better known as Cane Spiders – these two breeds are related) and I hate both.

    If you use something up in my house, let me know so I can replace it… like toilet paper… don’t leave me stranded on the loo without the stuff. It’s seriously not funny.

    When you cook in my kitchen, clean up after yourself… I’m not your kitchen staff.

    I my list sounds demanding, but really it’s my home and I shouldn’t be cleaning up after my visitors when they should have more sense. And I am very vigilant at their homes.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I’m totally LOL at your list of rules, Mozette. Love the story of grandpa pulling the fake old man thing so he wouldn’t get beaten at pool.

      And toilet seat DOWN!! An absolute must in my house. Why? Because it’s so ugly up, especially the bottom part! Reminds me of a public toilet. Ugh!

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    No lying was a big one at our house. We always told the kids if they lied and we found out, their punishment would be worse than if they just fessed up. Worked very well when they discovered most of the time we knew the truth to begin with. Even today as grown women they have a problem with lying.

  • gamistress66 says:

    you always greeted & said goodbye (or good morning/night) to mom properly — hug/kiss — no matter where you were or how old you were and treat your elders with respect.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      We’re a family of huggers, Gamistress, so that’s an easy one for us to follow. I’m always surprised when people don’t show affection to their moms and dads. I mean, like some men just shake hands. What’s that about?

  • may says:

    No dating until you finished high school. Needless to say, all of us had a lot of ‘studying time’ with our friends who happen to be boys. 🙂 I am pretty sure that my parents suspect but as long as we didn’t go too crazy with dating, they let it go…

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Jo, you and I were raised by the same people. Honestly. My mother would wash and re-use foil, fuss over how wasteful people were with bottles and cans. Yeah. Turned me into the Queen of Recycling for sure. Hahah!

    We have rules at our house, most of which come from my household. I like to think they aren’t tooooo onerous, though the boys roll their eyes.

    Wash your hands. If you can’t remember if they’re clean, wash them again. Grins.

    Seats down. You lift two, I’ll lift one, we all put ’em down.

    (Flush should go without saying but I think I’ll be ready for my grave and still be saying , “Did you flush?”)

    Don’t set your purse/handbag/backpack on my kitchen counter. You’ve set it on the car floor, the gym floor, the restaurant floor. It doesn’t belong on my food-prep areas. (This makes me crazy in public places too, when ladies put those purses on the table to get thier keys….and all those germs from the bathroom floor go right onto that table…shudder!)

    Please, thank you, yes ma’am, no sir, and respect your elders even if you think they’re nuts. Sometimes they ARE nuts. Respect their “time in grade” anyway.

    No stewed, breaded tomatoes (though my mother ate them with genuine delight so I had a serious “memory moment” with that one), but the kids have to wait to be excused, clear their plates, etc. And no feeding the dogs from the table….thank goodness there are no tomatoes to dodge! Hahah!

    Meet people’s eyes when you talk to them, shake hands firmly, say goodbye/hello to all members of the family you’re visiting if applicable, thank parents for any meal you receive, thank the servers who brought your food and waited on you….the usual there.

    Buckle up!

    Don’t hit your brother, the dog(s), or anythign breakable. If you do it by accident apologize, even to the dog, and ‘fess up right away if something breaks while there’s a chance to repair it/save it/salvage it. If there’s not, do what you can to fix the situation.

    If it’s on fire, put it out. If I’m working and it’s on fire, put it out quietly. If you’re bleeding and there’s arterial spray, holler for me to call 911, if it’s a scratch, suffer in silence until I’m done working….Grins.

    Yeah, there’s a few rules ’round here….Grins.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Yep, said it before, but will repeat: children or children of parents of the depression know the meaning of “waste not, want not”!

      OMG, Jeanne, I never thought of the handbag. I don’t allow mine to be put on my bed (come on, that’s where I sleep!), but it’s instinctive. Handbags go all sorts of dirty, germ-infested places, for sure!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Love those rules, especially about bleeding! I used to tell my students they didn’t get bathroom passes unless it was an emergency, which meant throwing up or bleeding from an artery. One young lady covered her mouth, raised her hand to ask permission for what was clearly an emergency.

      “Go,” I said. “You don’t need to ask.” She threw up in the bushes outside my classroom door, thankfully. I amended my rules after that to say, “You don’t need to ask permission in an emergency. Just go!!”

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I have to admit that “buckle up” was a rule I’ve had to learn. No seat belts back in the day, so it was just “Hang on!”

  • Maureen says:

    We had the no ‘C’s rule in our house which I did break a couple of times and it was not pleasant. One of the rules I had when we were raising our kids was that you had to finish what you started. So if you joined a baseball team you had to finish the whole season.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I love that finish-what-you-start rule, Maureen. And it goes for food too. I told my children they didn’t have to eat everything, but they did have to eat whatever they put on their plates.

  • Debbie says:

    They weren’t really rules but they were instilled in us, pretty much what you have listed. My father saved everything and wasted nothing. I still remember him saving the string off the donut boxes and if you didn’t use a whole sheet of paper, we saved it for scraps. We saved all gift boxes from presents and reused them. Believe me if I didn’t respect my elders I could kiss my butt goodbye.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      It’s amazing how many of us had the same rules, Debbie, or nearly the same.

      We mostly use gift bags, and definitely recycle those because they’re a bit pricey. I do try to use new tissue paper in them, though, so they look fresh LOL.

  • sandyg265 says:

    I think the one rule I really remember was from my Aunt’s house. As kids we weren’t allowed to set foot in her living room unless it was a holiday and the adults were in there.

  • diane says:

    We didn’t have rules. We had principles that we adhered to which were important and valued.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I have to agree with you about the principles, Diane. Strict rules without reasons don’t make sense, but if you live your life by certain principles, you’re not being blindly obedient.

  • ellie says:

    No rules were stated but we knew the boundaries and they were our guidelines. Not strict but expected to follow.

  • Laurie G says:

    I grew up with the GOLDEN RULE -Treat others as you want to be treated.
    I had to do my homework before I
    could play or do something with my friends.

    My children’s rules:
    No swearing
    Homework comes first
    Say please and thank you. Write thank you notes.
    Have fun , winning isn’t everything.
    Perseverance-keep trying

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Laurie, in this digital age isn’t writing thank-you notes the hardest thing? I’m always thrilled as a grandma when I get a hand-written note from a grandchild. Some are better than others; it’s all in what the parent requires of them.

  • I don’t remember a lot of “stated” rules in the house growing up – but there were definitely rules.

    1. Be seated at the dinner table when the bells rang at 6 pm at the church across the street – because as soon as the AMEN at the end of grace was said, forks would start flying. Be late and you went hungry.

    2. There would be no conversations about sex, nothing about any aspect that might lead to sex, though the horrendous consequences of sex were wordlessly communicated. The word was taboo. I think this may have been more a rule of the 50s but it was strictly enforced while I was growing up.

    3. Homework was completed immediately after school at the dining room table. Everything had to be done before my brothers and I were allowed to go out and play with the neighborhood kids. It helped that we could see them playing in the alley from our dining room window. Incentive to get everything done.

    4. There would be no discussions of politics in the house because my parents believed their strict Republican views were sancrosanct. Disagreements weren’t tolerated.

    5. Finally – no dogs allowed on the living room and dining room rugs – or upstairs. The cats had the run of the house, but the dogs were restricted – but over the years, they made inroads.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      The no sex conversation is hilarious, Donna. I don’t know how our parents expected us to get this information if they didn’t tell us! I remember being 11 and finally telling MY mother how I thought it all worked. She just sort of nodded her head and said to my 13 yo sister, sitting nearby, “Are you listening to this, Linda?” I guess she didn’t want to repeat the nods. Poor mama, must’ve been very awkward for her.

  • anne says:

    I enjoyed your post which was old school and how I grew up, not necessarily with many rules but we were sensible and brought up to respect individuals, education, and be helpful and kind.

  • bn100 says:

    be polite

  • catslady says:

    My parents were on the strict side so it was assumed that there were rules for everything and you never really argued about it. I too had rules but am a lot more lenient. They knew to say please and thank you and to consider others feelings. Probably the one rule I should have been more relaxed about was eating everything on your plate. I wanted them to at least taste everything. But once in a while we would both get stubborn and they did some very long sitting at the table or they got it for their next meal. I wouldn’t do that today lol. I bet when they have kids they don’t make them eat anything. My niece is like that (she has 7). But in my defense my kids like almost everything. I know someone that has a grown child that eats about 7 foods and was specially made everything!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I was a picky eater, Catslady, and I can tell you that making me sit at that table didn’t help. Sometimes for kids it’s about the texture of the food, not the taste.

      I pretty much like everything now, though! Wish I didn’t!

  • Jo, what a great post. I was brought up with a million rules, many of which I’ve since learned to appreciate. I still cringe when I see parents let their kids get away with being brats or not saying please or thank you. One rule that springs to mind – because I was talking about it recently to Madame Bandita – was to be careful with my mum’s beautiful polished cedar furniture. As a result, most of it is in excellent nick. Even as toddlers, we were trained not to be rough with the furniture! I suspect my fondness for antiques stems from those early days. I definitely spent a lot of my young life with a polishing cloth in one hand!

    Oh, so sad about Peter O’Toole. I always had SUCH a crush on him. The charm. The eyes. The intelligence. That long, rangy body. Sigh.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Oh, yes, Anna, those mesmerizing blue eyes. Only he and Paul Newman could pull that off!

      I once had a lady from church visit me and the entire time her 3 yo child jumped up and down on my couch! I was a young bride and too timid to say, “Cut that out!”

  • Hey Jo! Love your rules, especially the Don’t break anything, especially your sibling’s head! hehehe

    We had rules such as,

    1. Don’t argue when you’re told to do something, like a chore.

    2. No one leaves the table before my Mom without permission. (She worked hard to cook the meal, we showed respect by hanging out with her and talking afterwards.)

    3. No singing at the table. (Alas, I think this one was made with me in mind!)

    4. Always be where you tell your parents you’ll be and be home before the street lights come on. Unless of course the parents already said you could stay late.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      LOL at the no singing at the table, Suzanne, and I’m not surprised that was you. My kids were always rather grouchy, especially at the breakfast table, Bah, humbug!

      • Jo, it was such an ingrained rule, that when my kids were growing up…we had the same no singing during dinner rule. Which was good as they sang all the time as it was! But guess who broke it the most?


        • Jo Robertson says:

          Aren’t you glad now that your children were so cheerful, Suz? I can’t imagine any of mine singing at the table. And we were a really big singing family LOL.

  • Great post, Jo! We had many of those same rules growing up, but the one I remember most vividly was my father’s favorite: “Children are to be seen and not heard!” Needless to say, we were very well behaved in public. LOL

    Also mourning the loss of one of my favorite actors ever, Peter O’Toole. So smart and charming and funny. I loved Lawrence of Arabia, but I especially loved him in The Ruling Class where he was just a bit insane. 🙂

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Besides “Lawrence of Arabia,” I always remember “The Lion in Winter,” Kate.

      I think that phrase seen and not heard must’ve been an old-time warning. My parents said the same thing.

  • Becke Turner says:

    Interesting post. In my family, it was all about the work. It made an impact!

    It’s not about what you do, but what you produce.
    There’s no subservient job as long as you work.
    Everyone works hard. Some just make more money.
    To work was never an option.
    No excuses were ever a reason
    We were encouraged to have an opinion and speak it. Politics and business were openly discussed.
    No subject was taboo

  • You grew up with the same rules we had in our house. My father was military. Are you kidding? We had rules about rules! I do remember from an EARLY age my father telling us “Your mother is NOT the maid.” We each had our own dirty clothes hamper in the bathroom. Clothes that made it INTO the hamper were washed. Those that did not were not washed. No exceptions.

    When my father said “Police your area.” it meant you had better clean that room and everything had better be in its place. He inspected with a trash bag in his hand. Anything not in its proper place went into the trash bag and into the garbage. No exceptions – school books, homework, your favorite toy, clothes – didn’t matter.

    Anything you wanted outside of food and clothes you had to earn. When our friends got cars at sixteen my Dad said “Why should I give you a car for living sixteen years. I fed you, clothed you, housed you. You were going to reach sixteen unless you walked out in front of a bus.” We each had to save up and BUY our first car. No exceptions. And we had to pay for the gas and insurance as well.

    You did not raise your voice. If one parent said no you did NOT ask the other one. If you did an all day Alabama ass-whoopin’ would ensue!

    Dinner was sit down. No television. No phone calls. Period.

    No phone calls after 8:00 PM. We had curfews and if we broke them privileges were taken for MONTHS, including the keys to cars we payed for!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Wow, Louisa! That phrase “police this room” took me back down memory lane. That’s always what my dad said instead of pick up or clean up your room. It must be a military thing!

  • Kaelee says:

    I don’t remember a set of rules but most of the things you talked about applies to our family.

    I also remember having to obey all the adult neighbors. I came from a small town so if I did something wrong my parents would always find out about it.

    Now if we tell the kids in the neighbor hood to stop doing something, it only causes more problems.

  • Lianne says:

    Reading through all these rules makes good reading.
    We pretty had the finish what’s on your dinner plate rule in our house

  • Lianne says:

    Reading through all these rules makes good reading.
    We pretty much had the finish what’s on your dinner plate rule in our house

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Stick around for a few minutes, everyone! I forgot to say that I’ll also give away an e-book of my Christmas novella, “A Perfect Gift.” Sorry, it’s not available in print.

    I’ll be announcing the winner of today’s prizes shortly!