Our One Parenting Rule for a Less Hectic Home

by | May 23, 2019 | Parenting, Parenting With Authority | 8 comments

The husband and I were invited to give a parenting talk at our older kids’ school last week. We LOVE this school, and just had to say yes. It was a good time, although I will say that it was a different experience than my usual public speaking, as we were giving a talk to a roomful of people who know not only Jim and I, but also our kids! 😆 #nowheretohide

Parenting has been a frequent topic on this blog, but quite a few of those posts date all the way back to the very beginning (circa 2013) so some of you may not have read all the way back that far, or if you have, it’s been a while!

There were quite a few requests for us to record the talk, so we did! And I’d like to share it with you here. But first: a disclaimer.

I do not claim to be a parenting expert. That term kind of makes me feel squirmy, and conjures up a mental picture of stern faced lab-coated sixties-types telling mothers the one way to do things that they claim applies to all parents and children and situations and if you don’t do it you will fail and your children will probably become strippers.

This is not advice like that.

Our one rule and our general parenting philosophy is the result of sixteen years and nine kids (so far). It is adaptable to YOUR parenting style, and your kids, and your temperament, and your circumstances. I cannot yet claim that it will result in adults who are happy and pleasant and contributing members of society. We don’t yet have anyone launched into the real world. But I can say that, in our home, with our kids, this approach has resulted in toddlers AND teenagers who are happy and pleasant and contributing members of our household.

So, this is the ONE rule of parenting that covers our entire parenting philosophy, and it’s definitely made for a less hectic home: Always Mean What You Say. In this talk Jim and I cover the one rule, reasons you might want to try it, how we implement it in ten different scenarios, and some thoughts about our duty as parents. There’s also a Q&A session at the end. I think my favorite was the question about how we parents can hope to instill virtue in our kids, if we’re still working on growing in virtue ourselves. It’s fully captioned (which is why it took me so long to get it posted!) so if you’re having trouble with the audio, just hit that little CC.

Here are some links you might find useful . . .

My blog posts from which this talk was taken:

Always Mean What You Say: The HOW of Parenting With Authority

Parenting With Authority

How to be the Boss of a One Year Old

Them’s the Rules (Our family rules, and a closer look at these tiles that we reference in the talk.)

The discipline book by Dr. Ray that we mention: Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime

Jim’s The Dad Project podcast on creating a family culture.

My book on living the liturgical year in the home.

And, by popular demand, the Tierney Family Rules are now available in the Catholic All Year Digital Shop, as . . .

Two 8.5×11 inch Collages of All 22 Rules
One 8.5×11 Collage of 20 Rules

And . . .

The Complete Set of 22 Individual Square Images, like we have in our mudroom.

I hope you’ll give our one rule a try, and see if it helps YOUR home!


  1. Lauren

    Yay Kendra!!!! You’re the BEST! Thanks a million and one!!!!! Xoxoxo

  2. Dawn

    “When people give us good advice, we listen!” Thanks so much for your words of wisdom. God bless you and your family! 🙂

  3. Anne Glenn

    I’m a mom of only little ones and I struggle with my authority at times. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and I try to live by your “only say what you mean” advice. Tell me though, did everything look different when you had only littles? Just in need of some reassurance.

    • Kendra

      It definitely took us a few kids to really figure this stuff out and implement it. But I recommend doing it earlier. It makes SUCH a difference!

  4. Hannah

    I have 6 kids age 8 and under, and as a young mom, completely flailing, your “always mean what you say” article changed my life. I think God sent it. I still struggle with the “parenting with authority”, and I always come back and read your article, and it always helps.
    I just wanted to say thanks again, God has blessed me so much through your blog!

    • Kendra

      Thank you, Hannah! And you’re welcome. 🙂

  5. Katie

    Help! My 3-year-old is very strong willed, and we’ve not established our authority over him, which is evidenced by his actively challenging almost every single thing I ask of him, from not banging the vacuum cleaner on the furniture to not picking up what he carelessly throws off the dinner table to getting in the car or turning off the TV… My husband was a big softie for too long and I didn’t always see the harm in letting certain behaviors slide, so we have been very poor enforcers. But now I’m reaping the consequences (in the form of a strong and stubborn 3-year-old who has at least one tantrum a day, doesn’t listen to at least 50% of what I ask of him, and who thinks he’s the boss of me and actively says it sometimes). Any tips on turning the chaos around? I’m afraid we’ve already messed this parenting thing up.

    • Kendra

      Apparently there’s a Chinese proverb that the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago, and the second best time is right now. The same mindset applies to parenting! Now is a great time to start doing things differently. I’d sit him down and have a very quick family meeting, and just explain that you and daddy have decided that your family is going to do a few things differently to help have a happier, calmer home. Then, just do it!

      Our basic strategy is: have set rules and age appropriate expectations, ask clearly, give explanations of why, add what the consequence will be for disobedience (if necessary), then calmly and consistently follow through.

      For some kids, this is pretty easy, for others it takes a while, but love and consistent discipline really do make for a more pleasant home for everyone.

      If you need more resources, I like the books Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime by Dr. Ray Guarendi, anything by Jim Stenson, an out of print book called How to Really Love Your Angry Child, and (for a good perspective on why God sometimes gives out very strong willed children, the book Unbroken. These kids are hard to parent, but good for the world!).

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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