6 Rules I’m Teaching My Kid to Break

6 Rules I’m Teaching My Kid to Break

Check out the rules this mom thinks should be broken -- at least sometimes.

By: Heather Chaet

Look both ways before crossing the street.
Kids have to learn and follow so many rules…

Always brush your teeth before going to bed.
Say “thank you” and “please.”
Be kind to others.
Don’t talk to strangers.
Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.

The list of rules is long. You know the list. It’s the list that goes rushing through your brain when you are handed this bundled, crying, little one who knows nothing about the world. It’s the list that you constantly review in your head at any given moment to teach your child to be sure she is safe, stays healthy, and becomes a good person. Yes, that list of rules.

Yet, as my kiddo is now 7 (and a half), I realize that some life rules are not black-and-white. Some of them are not “she-must-always-do-them” rules. Following some of them is, at times, not the optimal choice to make. There are some rules that -- wait for it -- I’m teaching her to break every once and a while.

1. Color inside the lines.
When handed a picture to color at school, we thought we had to stay within those heavy black outlines. One little mark beyond the set boundaries would mean it wasn’t “good.” Poppycock, I say. When I encourage Kiddo to do anything with that picture -- especially to color outside of the lines -- opportunity knocks at that awesome door marked “Creativity” in her brain, and her imagination dictates what that picture can become, not the heavy black lines. That imagination of hers is a pretty powerful thing, and I want to be sure she uses it every chance she gets.

2. Pajamas are only for sleeping.
The clothes we wear are a mini reflection of us as a person. It’s the way we say to the world, “Hey, everyone! This outfit choice gives you a bit of a clue as to what I’m like on the inside!” But when it comes down it, the clothes you wear really don’t matter. What matters more is what you do while wearing those clothes. If she feels like wearing her pajama bottoms (or mismatched socks) to school on occasion, why not let her? There’s nothing wrong with being original and having a little bit of “style nonconformity” if it makes her happy, especially if she’s spotted you in slippers for carpool duty some mornings.

3. You must go to sleep at a certain time every night.
Now, I am a stickler for routine and bedtimes. I aim to get Kiddo under her covers around the same time every night. But if I find her, a half hour later, flashlight in hand, finishing a chapter in her latest book obsession, I’m not going to make her stop. Discovering a love of reading is such an amazing thing, I’ll gladly let her bedtime slide every once in a while to foster that. If there’s a cool full moon or a stunning meteor shower at 2 a.m., yes, I just may wake her up and usher her to the window to watch it with me. Creating memories when we see something in the night sky or read something in a book that changes us in our core is well worth being a little sleepy in the a.m.

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4. You must dish the ice cream/peanut butter/whatever it is into a bowl before eating.
This is a little random, but think about it: There’s something about grabbing that little pint of chocolate ice cream from the freezer, getting a spoon, and just going to Yummyville right then and there as you stand in the kitchen. Sure, it goes against all of the table manners we teach kids, but allowing this little rebellion is pretty harmless, and rather delicious.


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5. Being messy is bad.
I love for things to be in their place. I don’t like germs. I’m a little OCD. So, as you can imagine, a mess is not a thing I deal with very well. Despite this, I’ve learned that, in life, sometimes you have to get messy. Sometimes, stains and spills happen. Sometimes, a room will look like a dance troupe of Tasmanian devils paid it a visit. And you know what? Those messes are OK. Encouraging my daughter to get her hands dirty or to not be worried over a bit of spaghetti sauce on her white shirt or to create massive, floor-covering block structures in her room stretches and builds her adaptability muscles.

6. You have to go to school every day.
My kiddo has rarely missed a day of school. Even if she is absent for some reason, maybe because of a bout with the flu or due to travel plans around the holidays, I make sure she gets any missed assignments so she can be on track when she returns. But I firmly believe in the value of taking a “mental health day” now and again. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not advocating skipping school just for grins or making it a habit. As she gets older and the weeks become constantly jammed with homework and afterschool activities, the emotional and mental chaos of life can start to take its toll. Teaching her that taking a day to mentally “recharge” is just as essential as staying home when you have a fever is a key life lesson, even if it means missing school.

What rules do you teach your kids to break every once and a while?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/Yarinca

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