Rules Are Important

You didn’t like rules when you were a kid. Your parents had too many. Your school was a prison of pointless, arbitrary ones—how you could dress, when you could go to the bathroom, how you had to hold the pencil.

So it makes sense that you’re averse to them now. It’s good that you question how many of them matter and don’t want to make the same mistakes as adults did in your own childhood.

But you do understand there has to be some rules right? We’ve been talking about Bruce Springsteen’s strange childhood recently, which was warped by the grief of his grandparents who mourned the tragic loss of one of their own childhood. “There were no rules,” he explains in the fascinating book, Deliver Me From Nowhere (about the making of the album Nebraska). “I was living life like I’ve never heard of a child living it, to be honest with you.” He says that he grew up thinking that “rules were for the rest of the world.”

Again, although this might seem like a fantasy, it was actually terrible. He talks about how it caused him trouble as a kid and that it’s still haunting him. In fact, he says it destroyed him. And your kids will feel the same way.

They need rules. They need structure. Just as you needed them. Not petty, pedantic rules. Not rules that govern every facet of their existence. But they need guardrails. They need to know what they can and can’t do. They need to know that it doesn’t always go their way and they can’t have everything they want.

Because that’s life. And if they learn that too late, well, it might be too late for them.

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