Rules for Children

Rules for Children: Setting rules & limits were once popular discipline practices. Nowadays, I wonder if these practices are still relevant or recommended.

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Rules for Children

“The old folks say that you gotta end your date by ten. If you're out on a date and you bring it home late it's a sin. There just ain't no excuse and you know you're gonna lose and never win. I'll say it again, and it's all because YOUR MAMA’ DON’T DANCE and your daddy don't rock 'n roll.”

The above lyrics are from the hit 1970’s song by Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina, about a girl whose parents are somewhat conservative, and perhaps protective. I heard it on the radio recently, and for some unknown reason, the chorus line “Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock ‘n roll” stuck in my head.

Setting rules and limits, imposing curfews, and punishing or ‘grounding’ children when they break the rules were once popular discipline practices. As a twenty-first century dad, I wonder if these practices are still relevant or recommended for today’s parents.

Many ‘experts’ claim that children need rules, however from my observations as a professional parenting coach, I am inclined to believe that majority of parent-child conflicts are rooted in rules that parents set for their children. Many of these rules, although introduced out of good intentions (usually to develop good habits or protect children from harm), were either irrational or unreasonable.

Common examples include “You must finish your homework before play,” “You must finish all your food,” and “You must share your toys with your friends.” And when children fail to comply, a power-struggle typically follows, ending with reprimand or punishment. I often asked parents, “Where did you get that idea from?” Most of them got them from their parents. Others say it’s simply common sense. But ‘common sense’ isn’t always rational.

Isn’t it more appropriate for children to relax first (and therefore play) after a long a day at school, before doing their homework? Isn’t it more appropriate for a child to eat the quantity of food that satisfies his hunger (and not whatever that is served)? Isn’t it more appropriate to let the child decide for herself, who she would entrust her precious toys with (and not just any kid that happens to be around)?

Now, perhaps it’s time we re-examine the rules we impose onto our children, either consciously and unconsciously, and eliminate the irrational ones that tend to cause more harm than good to either our children or our relationship with them.

When it comes to rules, perhaps less is better. In our home, there is only fundamental rule that I expect our children to observe: To do no harm to themselves and others.