no rules

Our No Rules Night

This wasn’t my idea and many said I was crazy for even doing it. Several years ago, I published an article where I wrote about passing down or creating family traditions. Before I wrote it, I asked a number of people about their favorite family traditions to get some ideas. One idea stood out to me above all others. A woman in our office told me that when her son was younger, he would occasionally stay with her sister for a weekend. She would come to find out later that her sister would have “no rules” for the weekend. To this day, those weekends are some of his favorite memories from childhood.

I thought it was nuts, hilarious, and also intriguing. For the past year, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Several weeks ago, I decided I was going to do it while my wife was away for the weekend. Doing it for a weekend was a little more than I wanted to do so I decided to do one night. While my wife shook her head in disbelief, I presented the idea to my kids and, not surprisingly, they loved the idea. It ended up being an amazing night and they are begging me to do it again. Here’s how to make it successful and why it was even better for me than my kids.

Okay, there were still 2 rules to abide by.

The activities we did still had to be safe. I wasn’t about to let them run around in a crowded parking lot. We may have done some activities that had a little more risk than normal but nothing that would end in serious injury. The second rule was that we still had to consider other people. If they wanted to play in the backyard at 3 a.m., we could do it, but we needed to do it silently so as to not disturb the neighbors. My kids wanted to do this, but fell asleep before we had a chance.

Get mother approval and buy-in.

Moms don’t have to participate. Personally, the last thing I want to do is take away from my wife’s sleep which is why I chose a weekend she was away. However, it’s important to get her to buy-in. Let her know that there will still be the safety rule to reassure her. A night like this is the type of thing a child will remember fondly well into adulthood. That’s why it’s so important.

You need to commit wholeheartedly.

If you aren’t ready to jump into all of the things they decide to do then it will probably fall flat. At the very least, it won’t be as great as it can be. When they suggest something, even if it requires energy or being uncomfortable, dive into it with excitement. Stand on a chair and shout, “Let’s do it!” My kids and I went for a bike ride near the bay. They said, “Dad, can we go jump in the water in our clothes?” Of course they could and did—Me jumping in with them in my shirt, jeans, and socks is what they talked about afterwards.

Have out of the box ideas to help them.

They probably won’t know what to do. You may need to give them ideas. Have a list of crazy things ready. I had to suggest to my kids that we have ice cream for dinner before they got the hang of it.

My biggest surprises.

It was better for me than them. Order and structure are what bring me comfort. Chaos has the opposite effect so a no rules night is way out of my comfort zone. Ever since that night, I have been much more controlled with my responses to their behavior. Second, I expected them to be terrors the next day, but they were actually even more well-behaved. They jumped right back into our normal rhythm and ways. I haven’t told them, but I plan on doing it twice a year from now on.

Sound Off

What is the most "out of the box" fun thing you have ever done with your kids?

BJ Foster

BJ Foster is the Director of Content Creation for All Pro Dad and a married father of two.

  • Have any of the readers tried this? What are some crazy ideas that others can use to “get things going”

    • BJ_Foster

      I’m not sure if other readers have emailed you ideas, but I can tell you some of the things I wrote down. Not all of them are crazy, but random. The craziest things are the ones done well past bedtime and maybe into the A.M. hours. Here are some possibilities:
      -Dance party with disco ball, glow sticks, and loud music
      -Pillow fight
      -Build a fort with blankets and pillows – then sleep in there
      -Go on a donut run at midnight
      -Play Sardines after it gets dark – Turn off every light in the house. Bring everyone outside. Send one person in the house to hide. Everyone else has to find the person. (It’s sort of reverse hide and seek)
      -Watch movies until dawn
      -Camp out in the backyard
      I hope this helps you get started!

  • BJ

    I think this is a great idea! It’s sad to say, but the older we get sometimes the more uptight we get.
    Having a ‘no rules’ night is a great way to create spontaneous memories that will last a kids lifetime.

    I lost my Dad to cancer last year, but he was the king of ‘no rules.’ One time we dared him to back through the drive through at a fast food restaurant. I was in the passenger seat so I had to order and pay. You should have seen the look on the workers in the drive through windows! I have countless memories like that that keep his memory alive.

    As dads we have the opportunity to create magic with our kids. An easy way to come up with ideas is to embrace the opposite of what you would usually do: ice cream for dinner, jump on the bed, pillow fight in the living room, dress up like a superhero. Have fun and show your kids that you’re still a big kid at heart. Kids will get the rest of their lives to color inside the lines; show them how to be original and have fun.

    Thanks for the reminder and the work you do at All Pro Dad.


    • BJ_Foster

      Thanks Jesse! I’m sorry to hear about your dad. Sounds like he was a character and gave you many fun memories. I hope remembering those times are able to give you comfort and joy.

  • Sgpratt

    I told my 9 year old son we are going to do this tomorrow night. He’s super excited. Apparently the evening will involve pizza, frozen yogurt and staying up until midnight, for starters. Wish me luck!

    • BJ_Foster

      Nice! How did it go?

      • Sgpratt

        We had a lot of fun. Pizza and a movie, followed by a pretty awesome sundae bar 🙂 A 10pm stuffed animal battle, Minecraft on the big screen at 11…He wanted to stay up until midnight, and he JUST made it (did better than I did, I fell asleep around 11:30 while watching Gumball). Overall, it was a really fun night. We’ll be doing it again sometime. I recommend trying it!

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Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s the one thing you want to do that you think I would say ‘no’ to?”

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the first thing you would do if there were no rules?”

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