I have been thinking a lot lately about the purpose of the rules we set for our children. I have concluded that most of these rules fit into one of three categories:
1) Rules for health and/or safety.
2) Rules that work towards making the child socially acceptable.
3) Rules that make parents’ lives a little easier.
As a parent, I’m pretty laid back. From the age of eight I was raised by my father and I clearly get my parenting style from him because he was extremely laid back. As I recall, he only ever had two rules for me:
a) I must never swear.
b) I must always wear properly fitting shoes.
As long as I complied with those two rules, I could pretty much do as I liked. It wasn’t a bad life.
Similarly, I don’t have many rules for my children. There are really only three that I enforce with any degree of regularity:
a) Make sure I always know where you are.
b) Clean up after yourself.
c) Be nice.
I think these are pretty good rules to carry on into adulthood, but do we do that? Thinking about the rules my father had for me, I would have to say no. I regularly swear, probably much more than I should, and I have several pairs of shoes that bring tears to my eyes if I wear them for more than a couple of hours. So what’s going on here? Either there is a bit of teenage rebellion still left in me, or more probably, they were rules that were there for me as child, but were never intended to be carried on into adulthood. They served their purpose and have now expired.
Therefore, within each of the three main categories of rules I have defined, I would add two sub-categories:
i) Rules that can expire when the child grows up.
ii) Rules which should be carried on into adulthood.
Now all I need to do is survey several hundred people, crunch some numbers and see if my categorisation theory works. But first I’m going to change my shoes, they hurt like f***.