Breaking the Rules

 	 No Dogs, Bicycles And Swimming

Image credit: SayingImages.com

“I did something wrong today,” my daughter said to me in the car on the way home from school. “But I learned from it,” she quickly added to lessen the impact.

I stifled a smile at the latter response, knowing it to be a result from my constant, and perhaps sometimes over-emphasis on learning from mistakes.

“Rr—iii—ght?” I said as a question, and waited for her to elaborate.

“The handball went over the fence — it was just there — and no one wanted to get it, so I hoped over and got it,” she explained. “It was still in the school grounds, but just in the middle section where the dip is,” she said, clarifying her position.

Rules.

Rules, rules, rules.

I’m all for them, but recent situations have caused me to think about finding the balance between using sense, and being a stickler; how to be a person of conviction and keeping between the lines.

Before I continue on with this conversation I had with my second-born daughter, I’ll share another one between my eldest, just a week before this incident. Again, it was in the car after school, where many interesting conversations happen. Two conversations.  Two girls. Two different personalities. Two opportunities.

my girls

As I drove out of the school driveway, I noticed my twelve-year-old daughter’s hand.  She had drawn some sort of green creature over the index finger and thumb, so when pressed together, a mouth would appear. It looked cool!

I indicated to her hand with a slight upward tilt of my head. “That.  Are you allowed to do that at school?” I challenged with a hint of humour in my voice.

She looked down at her hand, and then turned back to me with a smile.   And shrugged.

It was the way she did it that made me laugh out loud.  It wasn’t an I-don’t-care shrug but more a sheepish boarding on cheeky I-don’t-know-but-I-did-it-anyway one.

There are many moments like these ones, where there’s an opportunity to shape, challenge and encourage the small person’s in my care.  I don’t do this with every conversation (enough with the life lessons mum!) however, because these two older children of mine are becoming ever more independent, I increasingly seek to bring value in conversations when, and while I can.

There are four main things I consider – and this doesn’t just happen in one conversation, but through snippets here and there as we live life.  While it seems quite formal when I write it down like this, in real life it’s more of an intentional but natural awareness rather than a process.

1. Acknowledge personality

2. Consider age

3. Account for situation

4. Bring out value

As for my two daughters in question, Miss 12 sees the world very much in black and white, so I sometimes challenge her to think outside the box, while still staying true to her person.  She has a very strong sense of personal identity — she’s quirky, smart and strong — so she doesn’t necessarily like to go with the flow, but she does feel a keen sense of expectation.   As I understand her, it’s like she sees the lines around her as fixed, and she accounts for them, then works, very much as her own person, inside the space. (Fig. 1 if I had to draw it).

Miss 10 is opposite to her sister in many ways.  She’s often acts first, and thinks later.  While I wouldn’t call her a heavy risk taker, she is (very) driven, so if there is something she wants to do, her determination is formidable.  She has a strong sense of justice, is sweet tempered, fiercely independent and incessantly creative. Interestingly, she’s more motivated to fit in with the crowd than her sister, and tends to account for the lines around her as a factor rather than a boundary so they appear to move depending on where she is at and what she is passionate about. (Fig. 2 if I had to draw it).

break the rules

There are great qualities in both these girls, and I absolutely adore (ADORE!) them; such a privilege and honour to be their mother. I can’t help but factor in my observations into how I parent them and it reflects in our conversations.

Back to Miss 12.  I laughed out loud at her reaction to my question about her character drawn hand, admiring her sass.  I didn’t tell her not to do it at school anymore, I simply said, “Okay. Well, I guess if you’re not allowed, you might get into trouble. Looks cool though.”

She laughed with me and said, “Yup,” and proceeded to hold up her character-drawn fingers, “Meee-yeeee-aaah.”

There really was no need to say anything more at this point.  Her nature is not remotely rebellious or disrespectful – so I decided to just let it be; to leave it to her own judgement (and consequence).

With Miss 10, I listened to her explain the situation to me — loving how she shared with me — and I paused for a second before replying.

“Did you get in trouble by a teacher, did you?”

“No,” she replied.

Ok. So she’s processing her decision to go against the rules.

I said something along these lines:

“You know,” I began, “I can totally see how you would have just jumped over to get the ball. And to be honest, I don’t see a huge deal with what you did in that situation.  I get it.  But, as you know, there are rules at school for a reason, and you may not know every reason behind the rules, yeah?” I glanced over to her.  “So you do need to respect them. What could you do next time instead do you think?”

“Probably ask a teacher to help,” she said.

The conversation ended with her nodding — more at ease. I don’t want to enable her to use me (or other people) to make her feel better about the decisions and mistakes she makes – I want her to be able to do that for herself – but I’m honoured to be the one at this stage in her life helping her process the steps.

I don’t even know if I did the right thing here, but my intention was to affirm my daughter as a person – that is, I understand her drive: she wanted to play ball; she didn’t want to wait for a teacher; no-one else was game enough; it was very close; she decided to get it – I get that, I really do.  I even admire her for it. However, I can see from a school’s perspective, that even though, it  wasn’t a big deal in her eyes, there may be, for example, younger children who saw it and then would follow suit etc.

So rules.

Rules, rules, rules.

Our modern society is choc-full of them.  Everywhere. They are good but sometimes rules should be challenged. Questions should be asked. These two situations with my children are really nothing — easy decisions here. However, this is where it starts: in the small moments; in the little lessons; in minor decisions.  In my children, I don’t want to squash judgement or personal expression, and neither do I endorse reckless rebelling or disrespect.  It’s a tricky thing to wade through; I know this first hand as I continue to travel along this journey.

In both these daughters of mine, I want to encourage individual thought mixed with common sense and considered respect; for them to be persons of grounded conviction, not simply rule-followers.  It takes wisdom and a lot of courage. I’m still learning. I can’t teach something I have not mastered, but I can share the wisdom and perspective I’ve gained, and I can think about my own actions, and live it.

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Kelly loves life at both ends of the spectrum: wearing high heel shoes one day and hiking boots the next; sipping tea out of a pretty cup and slurping hot coffee from a camping mug; challenging herself physically and stopping for quiet unhurried moments to feel the wind on her face. Kelly and her husband Matthew seek to live a fun and adventurous life with their four children and pet bird.

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow — here is something I don’t get: why on earth should it _not_ be allowed in School to draw a face (or anything else, for that matter) on your hand, and also: wouldn’t you, personally, don’t think it was ridiculous to ask a teacher for help to get a ball back from over the fence (which was still a safe place)? Personally, I think Miss 10 did perfectly well by being able to make a sound decision — she knew the place was safe, as compared to the ball being out on the street.

    I mean, yes, there is a rule — but we want our kids to grow up to be Independent, self-reliant persons… But you are right, it often depends on the kids — like my daughters are very conscious about rules, so I am more relaxed about them and trying to show them that there are rules that … well… kind of don’t make much sense… However, I know other kids who would bend rules just because… so I’d be more cautious with them.

    Hope this makes sense, ;-).

    Take care!

    So Long,
    Corinna

    P.S.: your dauthers are adorable!

  2. says

    Even though it may seem silly to have rules about drawing things on your hands it’s the principle that is important. If you turned up to work in many professions with drawings all over your hands then your employer would probably not be too happy. Imagine if your G.P. had silly drawings all over his hands… or the person who makes your lunch time sandwich. Of course grown ups don’t do that because they’ve learned that in life there are certain rules that apply. It concerns me when parents complain for example that uniform rules at schools are too strict and kids should be allowed to ‘express’ themselves. Well… you don’t see too many people in top professions “expressing” themselves with pink and green hair and multiple piercings. Schools are places for kids to learn that when they grow up there are codes and rules. There are plenty of other ways for kids to express themselves other than the place they are sent to learn.

    • says

      You know, I agree with you (expect I think a GP who had silly drawing on their hands would be cool — HA!). As I said in my post, there are reason for why school rules are there, and the kids don’t need to be privvy to all the rules. It’s about respect. And I communicated that to my daughter.

      But that’s not the point I was trying to make wth this post. This is coming from inside my parent-heart, and I don’t find it as easy to just say “follow the rules”. As you say, school is there for kids to learn about the lines that exist in life and how they relate to them. This post was about raising persons of conviction, not just rule followers. And THIS is where it starts. It’s about learning consequence for choices (so for examle, with my daugther with the hand drawing, my first response was weighed with what I knew of her, that is: she’s a very responsible, rule-respecting girl who is ever increasing to make her own choices, and bearing the consequences of them). I decided in that moment (whether right or wrongly) to respond by challenging her to think about if it was against the rules and potential consequences. You know, she hasn’t done it again. With my other daughter and the fence jumping, I didn’t encourage her behaviour. And again, she knew she had done the wrong thing so I was encouraged to see her own conviction. As a mother, I admire her passion and would hate to see that squashed by convention. So as I parent her, I aim to affirm and encourage her person, while also helping her to realise the rules are there for a reason. I find it a tricky thing to wade through.

      The stories I share here are not necessarily the right way to do things, I never assert that, but they are the truth.

      Just on the ‘Codes and rules’ of society you mention, or expression. Often society allows invisible codes to rule personal judgement, and I actively fight against that in myself.

      Thanks for bringing this perspective.

  3. says

    I saw a student with the same drawing on her hand yesterday in Nth Qld so I’m not so sure it’s self expression but more of a fad. I had five kids who did dreadful things so I understand how Mums want to defend their kids no matter what. Believe me… this will all seem so unimportant in years to come. Good luck with it all but believe me… this will all seem so trivial in years to come.

  4. says

    Dear Kelly,
    After reading back through my comments I’m afraid I came across as more than a little of a know-it-all and my responses sounded slightly negative. Sorrry! I failed to read between the lines in your post and instantly leaped to the defence of teachers. Your responses were extremely gracious. See! I broke my own rules about never posting anything on the Internet when I’m in a bad mood and have had a couple of Chardys. P.S. Your daughters look gorgeous and of course they should be encouraged to follow their own common sense and be allowed to express themselves freely! You write beautifully and your blog is so positive it’s refreshing.

    • says

      Hi Michelle

      How very kind of you to come back here and leave this message. I apprecated your inital comment (always glad for someone to bring their own take on things) and I knew it was supporting teachers. As do I, and the only thing I was worried about is if I indicated otherwise (so thank you for taking the time to comment). x

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