Of course, we want our kids to follow the rules. We don’t want them to get in trouble. We don’t want them to put themselves in danger. We also want them to listen to us and our rules—just so our lives are a little bit easier.
But we also know, as adults, how many stupid rules there are in life. Rules that don’t matter. That don’t make sense. That are meant to make others’ lives easier, even if they happen to make things worse.
So how do we balance that? How do we reconcile our desire for our kids to follow the rules…while also not becoming rule-following robots?
In his interview with Robert Greene, Jordan Peterson recently explained that one way he and his wife handled this with their kids was by establishing their own rule: You don’t have to follow stupid rules, they told their two kids, but if you get caught breaking a stupid rule, you still have to deal with the consequences.
The reason this makes sense is because it perfectly captures the calculus we all make in the world each day. There are laws and there are rules. There are things you must do, and things you “should” do. We decide which we abide based on the power we have over our lives and the tolerance we have for the risk associated with the consequences of transgressing—circumstances that are constantly changing.
You will never know where you truly are on either axis until you’re forced to make that calculus when there are real stakes.