Silly rules vs Real rules – won't they get confused?

QUESTION:

Won’t they get confused if I have ‘silly rules’ like “NO LAUGHING!” vs ‘real rules’ like “We do not cross the street alone”?

Answer:

Oh, you’re not giving children enough credit. This has never been a problem for us at all. When I give a serious rule, I’m not tickling and laughing with them, I’m setting them up for success in a situation. Children know the difference between play and real. They just prefer play.

Also, fun and backwards rules are a great way to get them to do what you want in highly-charged, tense situations. When we’re in a rut with trying to get our kids to do something they are struggling with, a good backwards rule can break the tension and help them see what we’re going for. Like with table manners, to say, “Make sure you eat as loudly as you can so that the neighbors hear!” is just as effective as, “You need to chew quietly,” because if they chew noisy and we all act grossed out, they come up with ways to chew quietly so they aren’t repulsed by each other.