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Rules vs Values

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

As a child were you a rule breaker? Did you like to see how far you could bend the rules?

Children are naturally curious and wondering how far rules can bend before they break is something they like to test. And sometimes they learn that rules are unfair and some need changing because they are no longer accurate or necessary.

What if instead of establishing rules to follow (and possibly break) we establish values to live up to?

By putting the focus on why it is important for the child to behave in certain ways we connect behaviours directly to the child and not as something dictated by rules.

For example, a rule of waiting your turn can feel controlling or punishing to a child, especially a fidgety one. By presenting it as the value that everyone is equally important they can follow the reasoning behind the taking turns behaviour. It is not established to stop the child from having fun but to make sure everyone has a chance to have fun.


Instill values not fear

When you have rules to follow there are usually consequences if you don't follow them. Fear of these consequences can make a child follow a rule. But do you want your child to behave out of fear?

There are also children who will break rules to get attention, even if it is negative attention. Or, children who feel the consequences are better than what the rule requires (if you misbehave at school you get sent home - home may be more favourable than school).

By creating a list of values, rather than a list of rules you alter the mindset of all involved. There isn't someone who has to dole out punishments, nor are children afraid to make a mistake. There isn't a focus on the inappropriate behaviours but on the values you want to instill.

If for example, you have a value of standing up for each other the negative idea of tattling is eliminated in place of people who are looking to help each other.

If a child's behaviour needs correcting it instills a conversation about the importance of the values on the child, and on others. It explains why we want certain behaviours to be practiced rather than others. It is certainly better than being told to do something "because I said so."

Replace the rule 'no hitting' with the value that we want people to feel safe around us - we are kind to each other

Replace the rule 'do as you are told' with the value we listen to each other - we respect each other

By changing rules to follow into values to live up to we are allowing children to learn and grow rather than fear and hide.


Gnomes of the Round Mushroom: valor and virtue in the wooded realm

Gnomes of the Round Mushroom features stories and art of virtuous gnomes that live in the wooded realm. Each gnome story focuses on a particular characteristic that helps make the realm a place of kindness and acceptance. This book is available from Amazon.


When values, thoughts, feelings, and actions are in alignment, a person becomes focused and character is strengthened.”

John C. Maxwell.


Positive behaviours help create a positive life but it isn't always easy. Check out my blog post on Living a Fabulous Life for ideas on getting through some of those bumps in our journey called life.

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