Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Do We Really Need Rules?

The other day I was talking to someone about rules, and whether we should set strict rules in our homes. So basically this is my rant about rules.

Rules are the only things that save us from chaos. We all have rules. The rules we are required to live by are called laws. We don't live by those rules, we risk the consequence of losing our freedom when we're tossed in prison. But those aren't the specific rules I want to talk about. We all know laws are to be abided and what the consequences are for breaking them.

I want to talk about other types or rules, unwritten, many times unspoken rules that govern our lives. I think many times we mistakes rules as being binding, and I suppose there are cases where that's true. Kids especially tend to hate rules. But there have been studies which show that kids who have rules they are expected to live by are generally happier, and do better in life than those who are given none, or very few, rules.

When we set up our own household, we determine what rules we want in place. Husbands and wives have to come to an agreement on this. And these rule aren't just the ones we set for our kids, but also what we set for one another. They are basically the guidelines for how we are expected to behave, to treat one another. For example, there probably aren't many marriages that will achieve any kind of longevity if one of the spouses feels they can do what they want, when they want, with whom they want. That they can stay out 'til all hours, or even for days, without letting the other know what they are doing. Or that they can spend money in any way they want.  I could go on about the rules, again unwritten and unspoken, between a husband and wife, but you get the gist.

We determine a set of rules for our children. We set down our expectations for them, and sometimes they like it, sometimes they don't. Maybe we require them to make their beds each morning, or do homework before they can go out and play, or clean the kitchen once a week. Whatever our rules are, they are ours as the heads of the households to set. There isn't anything wrong with or unfair about setting ground rules and expecting them to be followed. And if they aren't, as in anything in life, there are consequences.

When you think of the word consequence, if you're at all like me, you immediately think of negative.things. But there are consequences for following the rules as well. For example, you get to retain certain privileges and freedoms if you stick to a rule whose negative consequence might be grounding, or not being allowed to hang out with your friends.Or, in the case of an adult, the freedom that is afforded by the trust and respect you receive from your spouse/friends/children.

The Golden Rule applies to us today more than ever. Can you imagine a world where everyone lived by the "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you"? What bliss that would be. Utopia. No fighting, arguing, wars, even crime. Of course, we know we have to have opposition in all things in order to appreciate the good -- even with our kids. How great is it when they follow a rule without complaint, or tell someone else they need to follow that particular rule? That's a particularly sweet moment in a parent's life.

So, keep following those rules that aren't laws. Open doors for those entering a building when you do, say thank you to people, even for something small, smile at strangers, keep the road rage at bay, and most of all, respect everyone you come in contact with. You know, do unto others...

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