I hadn’t really thought much about it until I read an article from Outside Magazine entitled, “Just Say Go To Raise Kids Who Can Think For Themselves, Teach ‘Em This: Doing Right Can Mean Ignoring the Law” by Marc Peruzzi. The reality is, most parents I know try to teach their children right from wrong, respect for their elders, kindness, humility, all the while instilling in our children their own ethical code of conduct.


But something we might neglect to teach our children when arming them with a strong moral compass is when to question authority and when to break the rules. Teaching our children to abide by laws and regulations is all well and good, however, children and certainly adults should be able to question laws, authority and better yet, stand up for what they believe in.


If we stand beside our children with a pointed finger and a harsh repercussion for all the times they break rules, question authority or abide by their own inner wisdom, we might be hurting them in the long run. As the author states, “I want my children to be free and also to abide by the social contract.” Maybe in the long run, it is about striking a balance.  And for us, that balance comes by teaching our children to understand the value of personal safety, and fully accessing situations when implementing their personal judgement.  Certainly not an easy task for an adult, let alone a child.


Parenting is tough and it seems to only get harder as our children grow independent of us, as they learn to question more and fall deeper into their own set of beliefs. I recall with fond recollection a time when my own father once said, “If there is something you believe strongly in, don’t be afraid to act nor care what others say, I will stand behind you.” That statement came into play more than once in my life, but all too soon faded as I grew older, more interested in seeking approval, attempting to do what was “right” to simply appease the majority.


There is something to be said about teaching our children the freedom to make decisions on their own, independent of law or people, knowing quite well that in some cases consequences will follow. I, for one, want my children to know that regardless of their actions, if they truly believe in something and took the time to reflect on their actions, that I, too, will stand behind them.


There is a tremendous sense of freedom and personal responsibility when children know they are quite capable of making their own decisions in the face of danger, peer pressure or authority.


And for those who scoff at breaking rules, questioning authority or standing up for what is right despite the majority, then I ask you to think back on major historical revolutions, without the ability to question or demonstrate personal measures, nothing would have ever changed. As the author so poignantly states, “If we are afraid to break a few rules when there’s nothing on the line, how will you speak out against authority when it’s life and death? Authority comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s an unjust law, other times it’s a person. More often there’s a crowd of friends involved. The meek suffer in the face of such power, real or perceived.”


For a topic that hasn’t reared its head quite yet, as my children are still rather young, I thank the author for publishing words that some might find off – putting or controversial. Perhaps the moral of this story is to teach our children to think independently, to care a little less about how they are perceived by others and to learn to ride their own waves. Teaching children to question authority, breaking laws and relying on their own morality can be tricky, but Marc Peruzzi does a fine job of taking the plunge by bringing tough issues to the surface and as a parent, I thank you.


To read the article in full, please visit: www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/Breaking-the-Rules.html

6 thoughts on “Teaching Children to Break the Rules

    1. Thank you for your response. I found the original article beneficial as a parent in helping me understand that children must learn to think independently and trust their own judgement.

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