I am not a fan of rules.
I prefer guidelines.
Rules attempt to control
and there is a consequence for breaking them.
They are designed to educate and inspire.
A problem I see with rules as an educational tool is that they teach through an external source. The decision to act a certain way is taken out of the child’s hands. The reason for the action becomes a standard set from the outside by a system that has power over them.
Don’t Text When I’m Talking To You
For example you can make a rule that your kid cannot text while having a conversation with you. You want to teach them about respectful interactions. The idea behind the rule is that they have an experience of a focused conversation with no distractions. By giving them this experience they will hopefully learn to value the importance of focused interactions and take on the behaviour themselves.
The problem is that their inner experience is one of being controlled. Of having their freedoms taken away. Of being told that what they consider normal, acceptable and reasonable is less valued than what you think is important. Their perspective could equally be “Why can’t you just trust me that I’m paying attention even when I’m texting?” Enforcing a rule denies their reality around this subject.
This can only lead to resentment and ends up teaching the opposite of what you intended.
I’ve always told my girl that she doesn’t have to obey me. We make every decision in collaboration and discussion. She knows that I will always offer my guidance and suggestions, I will offer principles for her to consider and use as guides as she makes her own decisions.
If the action we are trying to teach is performed from an external motivator
the lesson can only reach so deep. There will always be a certain distance from the core.
I don’t want to educate the surface,
I want to educate the core!
There Are Many Ways to Teach
I have chosen to teach manners, respect, responsibility, work ethic, self-care and other such qualities, through discussion,
collaborative decision making,
investigating human nature,
and evaluating experiences for further learning.
This way is much harder than rules and requires much more attention and time.
It requires seeing our kids as equals in our relationship.
It requires letting go of authority and control.
It requires a higher tolerance for mistakes and “misbehaviour”.
When the lesson is learned this way, it’s not a habit, it’s not manners, it becomes a natural part of how they see the world, it is part of their paradigm.
I Never Wanted To Have Power Over My Daughter
I remember CLEARLY how it felt as a child when adults exercised their power over me. I made a conscious decision to remember that feeling, even as young as 13 years old!
I remember thinking “They don’t understand how smart I am, how much I understand and how much I have to offer. They don’t value me and they don’t have to treat me this way.”
So I decided I would never exercise power over my daughter.
We have always shared power equally.
I know this is odd. The conventional idea is that we must be parents first, friends second (if at all). But this has never sat well with me. I didn’t understand what this PARENT thing is I was supposed to be. Some sort of authoritarian figure holding power over a weaker being “for their own good”.
What Is a True Friend?
Isn’t a true friend one of the most treasured things in existence?
Doesn’t a true friend act as a playmate,
conscience, non-judgemental confidant,
learning partner, validator of beauty,
encourager of dreams, supporter during hard times,
healer of wounds, offerer of hugs
and source of pure love?
That seems like a pretty complete package to me.
Who needs a parent when we have a real friend.
Using this as my guideline for what I wanted to be for my child I chose to see her as my equal from day one, literally day one! On the day she was born I saw the wisdom in her eyes and powerful love in her heart. I knew I would have to work hard on myself just to be considered HER equal.
It is a work I continue to perform daily.
Mistakes are Opportunities for Learning
Letting go of rules and sharing power equally with children requires us to see them in a very positive light. It forces us to give them immense credit for intelligence and heart. It also means we are there with them as they make mistakes. It makes sense to create an atmosphere conducive to making mistakes freely and learning from them joyously. With increased freedom there comes an increased opportunity for making mistakes. Of course this is accompanied with an increased opportunity for learning and growth.
And that makes sense to me.