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Mom's Time Out

Teaching children the rules

Michele Brown

(8/2017) As our children grow up we teach them rules. There are rules for everything from washing your hands to not running with scissors to donít rob a bank. If there is one thing this world has it is an overabundance of rules. Those rules, for the most part, are in place for a reason. Sometimes the reasons are common sense and sometimes they have to do with someone having gotten hurt and thus requiring a rule to avoid a repeat situation. If we didnít teach our children how to follow rules we would be living in a world of chaos and danger.

When my children were toddlers the rules began. Donít stick anything in the electrical outlet. Donít bite other people. Eat what we put in front of you (or at least try it). As they moved into the elementary age the rules change, with the understanding that the old rules were still in effect. At this age the rules became more about hygiene and cleanliness. Brush your teeth. Clean up your toys. Donít use permanent marker on anything other than paper. Next, came the middle school years with a whole new set of rules. You may not date yet. You may not have a smart phone. You will shower on a regular basis. In high school the rules were cemented into their subconscious.

If they broke a rule that had been in place for years, when they were in high school, the punishment became more severe. I believe my kids would all agree if the punishment wasnít more severe it was most definitely more memorable. Losing your cell phone for a month (especially with no home phone) is apparently devastating to a teenager. A second infraction would lose them anything that plugged into the wallÖ.gasp! This age also brought about rules of its own. Most of which involved their grades, cleaning their room and people of the opposite sex.

I am very naVve, but not so naVve to believe my children are going to abide by all of my rules, or anyone elseís for that matter. That doesnít mean I donít expect them to and raise them to. As children they will test their boundaries and test my patience. They learn from this as well as from the rules we put in place. If my husband and I didnít implement and enforce these rules our kids would struggle more and more over the years with following rules regardless of an understanding of those rules. It is our job as parents to create rule followers. I know this will get under the skin of some people who would say, "What about raising free spirits or free thinkers?" Just because you raise a child to follow rules it does not mean you donít teach them to think for themselves and be creative. After all, my most avid rule follower is going to college for musical theater.

So what is my point to all of this rule talk? How do you explain to your children that someone didnít follow the rules at one of their favorite childhood trips and it cost some animals their lives. My kids all handled this differently. The two youngest became very sad and shed some tears. My second son wanted names and a day of reckoning. He is all about fighting for the underdog and righting wrongs. For anyone who has followed my articles you know that my oldest is actually having the hardest time with this. If you go to a place of business and they explain the rules (repeatedly), whether you agree or even understand you follow those rules. He may never understand why someone would disobey rules and especially to the detriment of animals. I have tried to explain that I donít believe the peopleís intention was to hurt the animals in any way. He doesnít want hear that. The fact that the rules were made clear and then ignored will never set with him.

I have used this as a learning experience that will hopefully stick with them for a long time. There have been places that we have gone that have had rules posted and my kids have questioned the reasons behind them. After many years of attending an indoor play place a new rule was posted by the indoor slide that read, "All children must wear under garments". My kids were confused why this was suddenly an important rule. I explained that maybe it had something to do with our last visit. As the kids were playing video games and bowling I noticed a toddler with no "undergarment" have an accident while going down the slide. The bottom line is whether you understand the rule or the motivation behind it you still abide by it. If you choose not to follow a rule then do not frequent the place with that rule. After all, if you donít like a rule that an establishment has you most certainly donít need to go to that place.

This was a sad day for my family and many others and an even sadder day for the people who lost their animals. Nothing any of us do or say can change this particular outcome, but we can change future outcomes by following rules when they are in place. We can respect rules that are posted and understand that there is most often a very good reason for those rules (whether we realize it at the moment or not). We can raise and encourage our children to understand and respect that rules are important. As for me, I will be praying for the people who lost the animals and for the people who most likely caused the loss. I hope everyone takes just a moment, when you enter a business of any kind, to make yourself aware of the rules and follow them.

Read other articles by Michele Brown