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’s the most fun you’ve ever had with your kids?

Check out the All Pro Dad Team discuss ways to have free fun with your kids in this podcast.

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