Rules Without Ruling

Over the past few years Positive Teaching has noticed that with the increase in positive parenting and education, there has been a potential decrease with setting clear boundaries and rules for fear of them being negative. Thus, creating a misconception with a positive approach towards setting rules and a potential culture of fearful parenting.

Firstly it is important to remember that rules and boundaries can be delivered in positive ways. Just as consequences can be explained softly and implemented gently. Calm reasoning is unlikely to damage a child in the long run (although yes, the rules may make them upset in the short run).

Rules should have modernised away from just being about control; we are not suggesting that children should be seen and not heard! And we’re sure you agree that the need for militant management is not so great for the wellbeing of a child! However rules still have value. Households today should have some boundaries and respect that exist because of a shared understanding of rules.

Rules are simply “a specific, clear statement about behaviours you expect from the child”.

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov)

They are set by an adult, as an adult’s ability to foresee outcome is more developed than that of a child’s. Modern rules are often about assisting the social and emotional development of a child so that they learn to function well in society. They can be flexible and delivered with reason.

For example; having a bedtime rule is about the wellbeing benefits of sleep. The adult chooses when the child goes to bed (rather than perhaps play on their device late into the evening) and this may be flexible on weekends. Although a child may not yet comprehend the importance of sleep (and kick up a fuss) adults stick to the rule for the benefit to the child in the long run.

Why adults should call the shots! 

There is no break as a parent, and you are forever feeling the responsibility for your child(ren)s happiness. Therefore we understand that sometimes you simply give-in due to exhaustion… I mean, some battles just aren’t worth it, right! However, as a parent know that you should always be respected by your child and your happiness should too be of importance to them. 

Parenting Columnist and Author John Rosemond, talks about the good things about old school rules in his article Why your kids should not be the most important people in your family. Now, yes! This may sound harsh but hear it out. In his piece he reflects on the theory that without rules and boundaries, and therefore respect, we may be creating entitled children. 

“…when we were kids it was clear to us that our parents were the most important people in our families. And that, right there, is why we respected our parents and that, right there, is why we looked up to adults in general. Yes, once upon a time, children were second-class citizens – to their advantage. 

‘Our child is the most important person in our family’, is the first step toward raising a child who feels entitled…The primary objective [however] is to raise a child such that community and culture strengthen…”

John Rosemond

Rosemond is highlighting the cultural shift that we have seen in families where Parents are now allowing the children to ‘call the shots’. Merely asking his audience to perhaps use some of the boundaries and hierarchical respect that they held for their parents as a child; with their own children.  

Here at Positive Teaching we are wondering if and when we (as a society) started to perhaps lean towards family structures and boundaries that were dictated by keeping the child(ren) happy aka avoiding tantrums. And therefore, are we creating an unrealistic view for a younger generation’s understanding of the real world? 

What should we do?

Perhaps we all need a fresh reminder that the setting of rules are for the benefit of the child’s wellbeing and social functioning.

If rules are implemented clearly and consistently (not militantly) they can support long term happiness and wellbeing. After all us educators talk about cooperative learning and critical thinking being so vital in the delivery of 21st Century education. Following rules has to be one of the simplest forms of cooperation and a platform for learning how to critically analyse one’s intrinsic motivation and awareness of impact (on themselves and others).

We’d love to hear from you… What kind of rules do you think are important, present, need to go, or are missing?  

mrsld@positivethinking.com.au

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