We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

A little while ago, I arrived home from a meeting at school to find my neighbor’s 14-year-old daughter sitting on my front porch, sobbing.I had hired her to babysit my adorable offspring, and they had locked her out of the house. After I finished screaming at them, I asked why they would do such a thing. Their defense: “Mom, you never told us we shouldn’t lock her out. ” Observing this mentality, of course, makes it easier to understand the handbook on chastity that was given to me as a youth, which included rules like “When giving a boy a backrub, do not take off his shirt,” and “do not lie on top of each other, even with clothes on,” and, my personal favorite, “do not get into a horizontal position with a member of the opposite sex–on a bed, a couch, or in a bathtub.”

Anyway, I’m hoping to compile here a manifesto of things I would have thought it obvious one shouldn’t do, to distribute to my children so that they never have the “you didn’t tell us not to do that” defense again. (As is, alas, always the case, most of these are things that they have, in fact, tried before!)

1. No locking babysitters out of the house, ever. No locking parents out, either.

2. Climbing onto the roof is strictly forbidden, especially if you are under 5. Ditto the top of the refrigerator, the roof of the school, trees over 50 feet tall or less than 4 inches in diameter, and telephone poles.
3. Do not tie a hammer on a rope and fling it over a tree branch 30 feet in the air. In fact, no hammer-flinging, ever.

4. When dealing with monsters under the bed, please consult a parent before attempting to saw the legs off of your bed to destroy monster habitat.

5. Maple syrup, vegetable oil, honey, peanut butter, and rice (cooked or uncooked) are Schedule A Controlled Substances, under no circumstances to be handled by children.

6. It is not permissible to consume an entire box of cold cereal in one sitting, even if your imaginary friends Homp and Joey eat half of it.

7. Do not use your sister’s hair to wipe your sticky hands.

8. Do not use your own hair, either, or your mother’s dry-clean only silk skirt as she is walking out the door late to a meeting.

9. 10-lb. bags of flour are under no circumstances to be used to create artificial snowstorms.

10. No listening to Primary songs before breakfast.

11. No gum, ever, anywhere.

12. Power tool use must be supervised.

13. Goldfish may not be harnessed to pull bath toys. Likewise hamsters and toy cars.

14. Toilet paper is just for that one thing. Really. That’s it.

15. If your bicycle chain breaks, you may not disassemble all of the bicycles of all of the other members of the family in an attempt to find one that fits yours.

16. No nailing anything to the walls, ceiling, or doors of the house–especially not theses of any kind.

17. If you are under 18, back away from the Sharpie!!

So, wise readers, what can you add to my list??


  1. Julie M. Smith says:

    Your list reminds me of Ian Frazier’s Lamentations of the Father:


    And I learned this week that my 8yo knows the word ‘loophole.’ He used it in context: when you ask mom if you can have ‘a piece of bread with something on it’ and she says ‘sure,’ the word ‘something’ may be construed to include ‘a small mountain of chocolate fudge.’

  2. Thanks for the laugh, Kristine! (I’ve been sitting in my office grading papers wishing I were at home sleeping, and you brightened my day.) I’m a non-parent, and my kid-interaction has been somewhat limited as of late, but here are a couple from my youngest brother:

    –spitting in people’s faces is not okay

    –chasing your brother around with a hot curling iron is not okay

    And one from my youngest sister:

    –do not put objects up your nose (or in your ear or any other bodily orifice)

  3. Heidi Parry says:

    You might want to add no locking siblings out of the house to number 1. : ) My brothers and I had some personal experience with that growing up.

  4. rleonard says:


    I get the “you did not specify this specific breach of etiquitte” all the time.

    White handbook:

    Missionaries are to sleep in the same room but no the same bed.

    My response about the same bed was always…. No &*$% Sherlock

  5. greenfrog says:

    Only one piece of sacrament bread.

    Don’t taste-test different cups of sacrament water to decide which one to drink.

    Keys don’t go in electric outlets. (Ok, they do, but they shouldn’t.)

    We don’t make brownies by mixing all the ingredients in a large hole in the backyard.

    Making a substitute Sunday school teacher cry is a bad thing.

    You can’t stay overnight at friends’ houses without clearing it with your parents, first. It makes them worry when they discover your bed is empty.

    Don’t eat your brother’s food during the period between the time when he excuses himself to go to the bathroom, and when he returns.

    If the toilet is blocked, clear it or tell someone else so they can. Don’t leave it, hoping no one will ever notice.

    Ditto for overflowing toilets.

    Rules I wished my parents had made explicit to my older brothers:

    No tying up your younger siblings and leaving them alone for extended periods of time in the unlit basement.

  6. Kristine, this was hilarious. I’ve been lucky in that my older kids actually follow rules and don’t look for loopholes. But my one-year-old seems likely to break all of the rules and require a Martin Luther-sized 99 theses of rules you shouldn’t break.

    One of my favorite comments at M* was from gst, who said: “I grew up on a farm and the only real rule we had was, ‘don’t fire the shotgun in the barn.’ “

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Kristine, you were a born products liability lawyer (the source of all the stupidly super-obvious warnings on products, because, yes, real people have actually tried to misuse them in that way before). And the post title was a totally inspired entree to your list. Thanks for the fun pick-me-up.

  8. Kristine, a wonderful list. I love it (as well as the fine additions from subsequent commenters), and I’m fantasizing about a Mother’s Day sacrament meeting that dispenses with tender tributes to sweet birdie breasts and involves a few lists like this. I’d hang on every word.

  9. This made me and my co-workers laugh out loud. Thanks Kristine.

  10. Kristine says:

    Rules I wished my parents had made explicit to my older brothers:

    No tying up your younger siblings and leaving them alone for extended periods of time in the unlit basement.

    You and Nephi!!

  11. greenfrog says:

    …actually, me and my sister.

    I hadn’t thought of the scriptural parallel. Hm. I certainly could have used an angel willing to zap them on more than one occasion.

  12. Kristine says:

    I just remembered one I had to make clear yesterday: do not put rubber bands around your neck, or anyone else’s.

    Kevin, my kids are the born lawyers–a few months ago Sam (5) asked me to read him the rules of Yahtzee for a bedtime story. (Yeah, that is pretty disturbing, all by itself, I know) But then he dreamed up exceptions, extenuating situations for every single rule. For instance– Rule: the youngest player rolls first. Sam: “well, what if the youngest two players are twins, and you don’t know who was born first?”

    I just hope they earn enough money to put me in a *nice* asylum when they’re grown!!

  13. my kids are the born lawyers

    Smother them!

  14. Kris,

    I can sympathize. Sullivan has been on a rules-and-exceptions-in-Monopoly kick lately. I spent ten minutes going over every single possibility with him, to nail down the facts like “you can not, under any circumstances, land on Mediterranean on your first turn.” (You can’t, as far as I can tell — and we analyzed probably a dozen different permutations). Or, “is it ever possible to pass Go more than three times in one turn?” (Turns out that it _is_ possible to pass or land on Go four times in one turn, if you do it just right.)

  15. Mark IV says:

    I know a woman who has brought 6 boys into the world, and who has pretty much given up enforcing any rules except these two:

    1. No bare chests at the table. You must wear a shirt to meals.

    2. Water fights are fine outside; however, you may NOT bring hoses into the house.

  16. Kristine says:

    So, um, Mark, would that be the same woman who grounded a boy from his mission because he didn’t clean his room? ;)

  17. Mark IV says:


    No, that woman has her children (and her husband) pretty much housebroken. But the son who was grounded once posted his version of Luther’s 95 theses on the door of his parent’s room. I’m not sure there were 95, but it was a pretty comprehensive list of gripes with his parents, siblings, school, church, and the world in general. His wise parents sold him an indulgence and all was well.

    I am a big fan of the old Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, and your story of the locked out babysitter reminds me of a particularly funny episode where Calvin declares the entire house to be the clubhouse of his organization G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS) and locks his babysitter Rosalind out of the house. The window is open though, and Rosalind can hear Calvin answer the phone when her boyfiend calls and Calvin tells him Rosalind can’t come to the phone because she is “indisposed”. When his parents call her to babysit the next time, she doubles her rate and demands cash up front.

    On a serious note, we need to keep in mind that adults are just as adept at making excuses for dumb behavior. I’m guessing that Gordon B. Hinckley was disappointed that he felt it necessary to use general conference time to say this:

    Some have even used as an alibi the fact that drugs are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. What a miserable excuse. There is likewise no mention of the hazards of diving into an empty swimming pool or of jumping from an overpass onto the freeway. But who doubts the deadly consequences of such? Common sense would dictate against such behavior.

  18. A few from my childhood…

    Do not attempt to consume an entire carton of cottage cheese and then leave the partially empty container behind the couch to rot.

    Do not bend metal spoons, even if they are easy to bend and seem to bend back to normal.

    Do not mummify your siblings.

    Do not put the baby’s binky in backwards to make him cry.

    Do not use bathroom as your chemistry lab.

    Do not dress the cat in the baby’s clothes.

    Do not send your sister’s guinea pig down the slide in your sister’s Barbie car. (Do not place the guinea pig in your sister’s Barbie house either. In fact, do not mix pets and Barbies in any circumstance.)

    Do not rub Barbies against concrete walls to significantly change their figure.

    Do not open the coffee dispensers at the grocery store “just to see what will happen.”

  19. Lamonte says:

    A rule I neglected to tell my four sons in their formitive years:

    “Even if your irresponsible father loves to tell tales about shooting bottle rockets at the police in the wee hours of the morning while growing up in his small hometown in southern Idaho, do not try the same thing, or any thing similar to it, when growing up in a major metropolitan suburb on the east coast.”

    For my sons, this rule came one day and one unpleasant meeting with the police too late.

  20. If you spill grape juice all over a cushion on your mother’s new couch, do not simply turn the cushion over and walk away.

    If you break your father’s eyeglasses, which were sitting on a nearby table while he wrestled with you and your four siblings, do not smile while he spanks each sibling in turn in an effort to discover which child is lying. The smile is a dead give away that it was you who broke the glasses.

  21. Kristine says:

    Eowyn, those are awesome–I’ve been a No-Barbies kind of mom so far, but now I’m getting curious about what my kids might do with them :)

    Also, the cottage cheese rule can be expanded to cover all dairy products–ice cream smells just as bad after a week.

    And grape juice should definitely be added to the list of controlled substances, sfw!

  22. cj douglass says:

    Actually it was two sons, a cousin and a friend.

  23. From my childhood (5 boys and 2 girls)
    Never, never fold your siblings up in the hide-away bed.

    Always get up and go to the bathroom when you need to pee. The corner of the family room is not the same as a tree in the woods.

    Never stick floss up your nose and try to hack it out through your mouth.

    Never let your small mammal loose without keeping tabs on it. You must know where it is at all times.

    Never put Dawn or other dish soap into the dishwasher.

  24. 1. Rules that I just told your brother apply to you too. (There’s really no quicker way to get Sullivan to go torment his sister than to say “Kace, stop poking your sister”).

    2. If you make it, you eat it. This rule applies to peanut-butter-and-tuna fish sandwiches, for example. Or to the “snack mix” the kids made last week — dinner rolls, peanut butter, raisins, graham crackers, and soybeans, all mixed in a bowl. Yeah, that one showed up at dinner. (Though not before they had tried to sell it on the front lawn at $10 a plate).

    2a. Don’t open the banana if you’re not going to finish it. Definitely don’t open a banana and then leave a half eaten portion under a couch cushion.

    3. Flush the toilet when you’re done!

    3a. Except when it’s stopped up. In which case, do _not_ keep flushing it.

    4. It is unacceptable to claim “I’ve got to go to the bathroom” as soon as chores start, and then try to camp out there for half an hour and hope that most of the work gets done without you.

    5. The new saplings in the back yard are not appropriate targets for swordplay. Neither are the flowers.

    5a. Neither is your little sister, unless you’re absolutely, positively, 100% sure that you’ve obtained informed consent from her beforehand.

    5b. Stating “Hi-ya! I just chopped you! You’re dead.” is not a valid attempt to obtain informed consent (and as an empirical matter, is not particularly likely to result in a granting of consent by the chopped party, either).

    6. (Alas, this one was just invented two days ago). I don’t care if your brother said you couldn’t re-shoot your shot — you still can’t hit him over the head with the pool cue.

    (See also “baseball bat, rules concerning”; “tennis racket, rules concerning”; “broom, rules concerning” . . . ).

  25. John Taber says:

    I have been married for not quite two years now, and so I don’t have kids yet. Thank you all for showing me what I have to look forward to!

    BTW, my sister Christina’s new baby Samuel is being blessed this Sunday.

  26. Elouise says:

    Wondrous lists, attesting to how early in life creativity kicks in! In one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, Laura and Mary have had a great time sliding down the huge haystack Pa has carefully made. Discovering the stack in shambles, he sternly forbids them to slide down that stack again. When he returns from the field, sure enough, the stack is once again half its intended size. When Laura denies that they have slid down, he scolds her for lying, at which she is totally appalled and stunned. She certainly did NOT lie! Gentle prodding reveals that the girls rolleddown the stack.

    What about some other family rules, perhaps not designed to restrain creative behavior, but laid down for arcane, personal, or still unknown reasons? For example, a college chum’s mother had a strict rule: No lying on the living room couch. Why? I asked. My chum didn’t know.(The rule was not about shoes on the couch; even lying with shoes off was forbidden.)Another household had a major commandment: Never put a hat on a bed.(Coats were okay, books, even dogs. No hats.) My mother once corrected me when I had told a neighbor I was planning to go to college. “Don’t say ‘college’; say ‘the university.'” I later figured out that to her, “college” was an uppity, show-off word, whereas in Tucson, “the University” was just that familiar campus down the road. Another huge non-no in our house: never interrupt when adults are talking. The result was that even in their twenties, my brothers would rush through the living room, barely looking at any adults present.
    Anyone have other such quirkly ground rules?

  27. “10. No listening to Primary songs before breakfast.”

    Our primary gave us a CD with ALL THE VERSES of “Follow the Prophet”. This is the cruelest thing anyone has ever done to me.

  28. Bruce H. says:

    >> No lying on the living room couch.
    >> Why? I asked. My chum didn’t know.

    Drool. You lie down, you nod out, you turn on your side to get comfy. You drool on the couch. My mom has the same rule.

  29. Mark IV says:

    Before I became a parent, I did not have much appreciation for Yahweh in the OT. Now, when we insist on some perfectly reasonable guidelines (“Please call if you are going to be out past midnight.”) the kids react like we are trying to make them keep every rule in Leviticus.

    Sometimes, though, the lines we draw detract from the principle involved. I am aware of a situation where a pregnant 15 year old went to her bishop. Whe he asked how long she had been dating her boyfriend, she honestly and forthrightly replied, “I’m not 16 yet. I don’t date.”

    I know a stalwart and devout LDS mother who was picking up the drycleaning one afternoon and recognized her daughter’s car across the parking lot, in front of a business named Jumpin’ Java. She immediately went on Red Alert and decided to investigate. When she looked through the storefront window, she saw her daughter, her own precious offspring, raise a cup of something steaming and black to her lips. I’m not sure what happened next, because there are significant differences between the mother’s and daughter’s accounts. The net of it was this – the girl, along with the other 4 Laurels in the ward, had become loyal customers of Jumpin’ Java, stopping in after school every day in order to talk and “fellowship” one another, LOL. And the girls just couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. They were not drinking coffee, don’t be silly. When they ordered at the counter, the word “coffee” never escaped their lips. Instead, they ordered cappucinos, lattes, mochas, and steamers. Talk about creatively fudging the rules! The defense attorney profession lost 5 promising members because all of those Laurels have since chosen other careers, mostly stay at home motherhood after temple marriage.

    A decade or so ago, the wording of the chastity covenant was changed. Where it used to proscribe sexual intercourse between unmarried people, it now phohibits sexual relations. I strongly suspect that the change was made in an effort to prevent the sort of rulebending and rationalization we mortals seem to have a knack for.

  30. No tying up your younger siblings and leaving them alone for extended periods of time in the unlit basement.

    This is nowhere near thorough enough. What you really need is something like, “No tying up anyone, ever, including but not limited to: younger siblings, older siblings, animals, babysitters, and parents.”

    (One of my older brothers was very interested in knots…)

  31. Gaaah, sorry I got the html tags all backward there.

  32. Kristine says:

    Thanks, Anna–I’ll amend the statute :)

  33. Kristine says:

    Bruce, I love that someone had an answer to that question and that it is guffaw-inducing. So great that the answer to a decades-old mystery contains the (hilarious, all by itself) word “drool.”

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    Mystery solved!

    1802, apparently dial. variant or contraction of drivel.

    O.E. dreflian “to dribble or run at the nose,” from P.Gmc. *drablojanan.

  35. Sarah T says:

    This was the best one our household has to offer. (We were a military family, and my dad liked chemistry experiments, which seemed to have rubbed off on at least one of the brothers.)

    You can make Napalm in the garage, but using it inside is strictly forbidden.

  36. A friend suggested that we focus on teaching more of the WHY rather than the Do NOTs, this has been good advice. But in keeping with the tone of the original post… Here are some additions from my childhood and parenting years.

    1. Do NOT harm the family pet in any manner. (i.e.: Do NOT toss the cat from the second floor down to the first, do NOT put cat in the dryer and walk away, and do NOT put cat in Igloo water cooler and spin in circles like a centrifuge.)

    2. Do NOT combine Rubbing Alcohol, Styrofoam Cup, and a lit match together indoors… Results are not guaranteed.

    3. Do NOT hard-pack snow balls into ice balls and throw directly into your sister’s only good eye.

    4. After asking a parent if you can turn the logs in the fire, Do NOT ignore their response and set the living room carpet on fire whether your parents are hosting a party or not. But if you do, Do NOT run through the party to get the oven mitts… Ask an adult for assistance.

    5. When sister slips on the ice on the back porch and breaks her collar bone, do NOT ignore calls for help in lieu of watching cartoons. This will come to haunt you during your wedding “Roast”.

    6. Do NOT use your nails to scratch designs into your parents new leather chair and sofa.

    7. Do NOT use your fore-arm cast as a form of corporal communication on your siblings.

    8. Do NOT continually take advantage of older sisters loving and protective instincts by faking grave bodily injury.

    9. Do NOT force said cat into high and compromising position while leaving only your smirking face as a landing pad for the flying feline with claws.

    10. Honor thy Father and thy Mother… That thy days may be long.

  37. Some rules I inspired as a child:

    Bow and Arrow Tag is not allowed, no matter how fast your siblings can run.

    If you break your brother’s arm, it is not permissible to convince him to just suck it up and not tell Mom and Dad. Yes, it may eventually heal, but we’d prefer to let a doctor set it before it does.

    Blind-folded bicycle rodeos are expressly prohibited.

    Picking your little sister up by the hair and shaking her until her body weight causes the hairs to detach from her scalp is forbidden.

    If a sibling takes cover inside the house during a waterfight, you may not continue to attack them by spraying the hose through the window screens.

  38. Heh. When our oldest was two, he locked us and the baby out of the house. You read correctly: abormally clever two year old in house alone. Parents outside. Baby outside. Very scary. Scared DH rapped on the window a little, um, enthusiastically to try to get toddler-boy’s attention. The window broke. The good news: we ended up deciding to replace all the windows in our little old house. The bad news: that cost a lot of money.

    Some rules to add from my childhood, my husband’s childhood, and my current children (ages almost-7 and 5):

    – No contests for who can make the best gagging or vomiting noise. These only lead to one thing. Real vomit.

    – When your older sister has a date sitting in the living room, the way to make a great impression is not to run into the room and dump your glass of juice on his shirt. You may in fact make him so determined that he marries your sister.

    – You may not require your brother to allow you to spit on his head so that he may use your bike.

    – You may not pee in your brother’s mouth while together in the bathtub. I don’t care how big his mouth is or how infrequently he shuts it.

    – You may not pee in a cup and tell your brother it is apple juice as your revenge for the tub pee incident.

    – You may not jump off the roof of the house.

    – You may not use every ingredient in the kitchen to perform chemistry experiments, and you especially may not use the stove to speed up the reactions.

    – You may not jump from a park bench onto your mother’s sunburned back.

    – You may not dig a channel in the lawn just because you want to find some ants.

    – You may not walk home from the church alone to retrieve your spider jar to show your friends while your mother is trapped in the cultural hall sewing bags for the youth pioneer trek. Even if you do wrap it in a dish towel and put it in a ziploc bag to make sure the spider doesn’t escape.

    – Using family prayer as a venue to ask the Lord that your brother cease to mistreat you is not going to be a really effective relationship-builder. Don’t do it.

    – Candles should not be lit on bed pillows. Especially if the jar is broken. And what are you doing with those matches?

  39. Do not use the vacuum’s extension tool to recover escaped gerbils. You will not be able to simply retrieve them in the vacuum’s bag.

    Do not put a glass flower vase in the trash compactor.

    Do not lock your sister in the laundry room.

    Do not force your sister out of the bathtub, proceed to take a bath yourself, and leave her freezing, butt-naked, in the hallway.

  40. Oh, and standing up at dinner, telling your brother to shut-up, and grabbing a fistful of salad and hurling it in his face is definitely not allowed.

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