These rules you find yourself fighting with your kids about; the ones that, if you’re being honest you don’t even care about–at least not more than your relationship with your kids, anyway…
No eating in the living room, only at the table.
Bedtime is 9pm.
Don’t go outside without a jacket and a hat.
No swimming after you eat.
Shoes go on the mat in the mudroom.
Rinse your dishes before they go in the dishwasher.
Where did these come from? Do you even know?
Chances are you just kind of picked them up somewhere. Your parents said it was important. You heard some person on TV or Instagram say it was important. You told your kids once and then they defied you so now it’s a battle of wills for the pyrrhic victory. Regardless, you probably haven’t thought much about them (if you did, you probably wouldn’t care so much, would you?)
A while back we told a story about Rosanne Cash and how she found herself enforcing some insane rule about what time her kids had to stop drinking juice. She had no idea why or where it came from…but it took on a life of its own.
This is obviously not a recipe for happy, pleasant family life. Nor does it help your kids understand what’s most important in this world. Because some rules do matter. Some boundaries are worth going to bat for. But when we make a big deal out of stuff that doesn’t matter, that we haven’t thought about, that we hypocritically do ourselves, that we’re then enforcing reflexively or out of a tired tradition–we’re undermining the lessons that are essential to the development of our kids.
Thou shall not kill is a lot more important than thou shall not put thy feet up on the coffee table. If we don’t get that, how do we expect our kids to?. So take some time. Put your own rules up to the test. Question them. Discard them if they don’t reflect what you really want to teach your kids.
You will be a better parent for it.