The Rule Book

For a lot of people, rules are considered an infringement of their civil liberties, or something that are seen as cramping their individuality. Rules are not necessarily seen as positive things but something that stops some people’s fun.

But believe it or not, kids love rules. Their world is clear cut – black and white, yes or no. Kids don’t really see in shades of gray. They need absolute certainty.

A clearly defined and articulated set of household rules help children understand what is right and what is not. As a result, it’s now understood by our boys that sticking your brother’s head in the freezer is wrong but sharing your toys with your brother is right. It may sound old fashioned but the right set of rules can make a big difference to family harmony.

In fact, our eldest son Andrew is obsessed about our household rules. He’ll quite happily cite them to us “you have to eat your dinner before you get a special treat” or “no jumping on the couches” or “no playing on the stairs with knives” (kidding of course). And if we accidently break the rules we’ve set in place for him and Christian, he’s the first to point it out “Mommy, you said the naughty word again”.

Nowhere is the obsession with rules more apparent than when we play games with the boys. They love games and playing by the rules. One of their favorite games is Duck, Duck, Goose. The aim of the game is simple – you have to get three geese of a certain color on to your lily pad. Each player takes it in turns and it can be a quick or long game depending on your luck.

Normally the game is played without incident, but we noticed something strange the other day. Andrew cheated! He broke the rules in order to win. We spotted what had happened and told him that it wasn’t right to cheat, but the desire to win means he has now cheated a few times. And worse still, he lies about cheating. We certainly didn’t teach him about cheating. It’s seems a part of his personality that has simply revealed itself.

So the question that has us as parents thinking is, should we be concerned that Andrew has broken the rules?

Rules are essential. Rules stop society from breaking down and turning into a “Lord of the Flies” free for all. But it’s clear to me that not everyone plays by the rules. In fact, a lot of people get ahead because they bend the rules and manipulate the truth. For some, they can’t help themselves, for others it’s a deliberate action to get ahead. Rule breaking and lying are an unfortunate part of life and there’s an argument to suggest that rule breaking and lying are required life skills. It pains me to think about this and I don’t condone unfair actions, but it seems an unfortunately reality.

For now, we will stand firm with our household rules. There can be no ambiguity as to what is right or wrong. But I’m sure at some point our household rules will be questioned, challenged and broken. At that point, there will be some negotiation and discussion about what is allowed and what is not but we’ll continue to do what we can to ensure the boys play by the rules.

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One Response to “Rules is Rules”

  1. ‘there’s an argument to suggest that rule breaking is a required life skill.’ That is so thought provoking! Great post!

    As parents, our jobs are so hard…and I find that I often have to ‘break the rules’ in parenting just to keep my sanity :)

    Reply

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