Are ‘Affirming’ Wall Decals Undermining Parenting Confidence?

House Rules

Here’s our brand new wall decal (or sticker, if you will). It was on sale at Catch of the Day a few weeks ago and on the screen, in the gallery with all the others, it looked cool, so we bought it. Pretty simple, really. People make spontaneous online purchases all the time. And we weren’t even drunk! Nothing to praise – or to blame – but our sobriety!

Except now, a few days post-installation, I’m not sure how I feel about it anymore.

Yes, it does have a whiff of ‘fad’ about it; yes, the plastic does shine more than I’d like (you can see it in the photograph); but more than that, now that these ‘rules’ are up for all to read and – theoretically – be obeyed, I’m not sure I want to. I’ve always been petulant in that respect – tell me not to do something, and that’s what I want to do.

I know the list ends with a conveniently negating command “Break these rules once in a while”, and I daresay I’m over-thinking this, but I guess my greatest desire as a parent would be to instill the kind of values in the children that are modelled by example and in turn are not explicitly ‘taught’. When I was growing up, both of my parents worked hard, pushed us at school, took us to the library and whatever shows or movies our modest family budget allowed. I had it all without having a decal up on the wall, next to our dining table, where I’d sit and chew my broccoli and consider its message every night.

Critics could even suggest that the rise of similar decorations, even canvases and artworks, could point in the direction of dwindling parenting confidence – do we really need these ‘touchstones’? Why are they ‘in’? Irony could be at play, so too a retro, hat-tipping to a simplicity of familial life that no longer exists (if it ever did).

Perhaps it’s my anxiety. Those of us who have it, we seek out our weaknesses to test it, poke our emotional bruises. So when I look at it, sometimes I see the things I’m accomplishing, but I mostly see my failures: I don’t always tell the truth and I certainly don’t want to try everything once.

Even Riley, upon reading this for the first time, exclaimed, “Mum! You and Dad have broken a rule already! It says ‘No Whining’, but you drink wine all the time!”

I couldn’t argue with that.

So, it’s staying because I don’t want to take it down just because it confuses me. That wouldn’t solve much either.

What do you think?

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Karen Andrews is the creator of Karen Andrews. This is one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country and is a two-time finalist in the Best Australian Blogs competition. She is also an author, award-winning writer, poet, editor and publisher at Miscellaneous Press. Is an exercise junkie (when she finds the time).


  1. says

    I had a similar family manifesto up on my wall for a while but other than it urked me that it was slightly similar to chevron patterns and pineapples, and may in fact be uncool one day, I had hung the whole thing crooked so every time I looked at it instead of reading the words, I just saw a large crooked decal. I peeled it off and hung a stag head instead. Yes, I know. Besides the only one in my family that read the words was me and it just annoyed me that as a family we needed them

  2. says

    Back in my corporate days I worked in strategic planning (well one of my corporate roles was that anyway) – you know the type of thing I’m sure. Thinking up words to mirror organisational commitments & wishes. Vision statements. Value statements. That type of thing. We had the words framed and put up on walls all around. We had them for screen savers. In a way I like the idea. Writing down what you want things to be like surely helps achieve goals so everyone is on the same page. I think that translates to individuals and families too but I also know that seeing these things every day means you can just walk by them without giving them any creed. I have mixed feelings too is what I’m saying I guess. x
    Cat recently posted..“I picked these for you”My Profile

    • says

      I know exactly what you mean – and I’ve written many of these word/done such exercises in my time. If we talk about them occasionally, rather than simply pass them by, we’ll see how that goes :)

  3. Shelly says

    I daresay a lot of people put up those ‘family rules’ signs to create a homey, old-school family environment. There are lots of them around these days. I don’t think many people expect every family who has the picture up to blindly obey every single rule. It’s nice. (Besides, can you imagine dad putting ANYTHING up on our walls? You know how tetchy he was with anything damaging the paint!! Love your work dad, rest in peace.)

  4. says

    As a teacher we’d put signs up around our rooms- motivating.. Not sure. I tend to think raft once sonethjng has been displayed for about a week it melts into the background & no-one notices it. It seems to me that family values & rules, if you will, need to be lived as examples and varied (rules) to take into account ages & stages of kids..
    Denyse Whelan recently posted..27 February 2014.My Profile

  5. says

    Hi Karen,
    Good point! How about when you put them up in the wrong order? My husband & I had one for our son’s bedroom and we put it up so that the saying now doesn’t really make any sense. Now, every time our boy has friends over we can hear him explaining that ‘mum and dad have no idea about grammar!’

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