Whether your child tends to be a rule follower, or they like to fight against every boundary, there are things you can do to help them prepare for better decision-making in the future.
When children have a good understanding of why the rules are in place, they are more likely to follow them. Understanding the reasons for certain rules will also help them make better choices even when an adult is not around to tell them what to do. This can help improve their safety awareness even as young children and will positively impact their choices down the road as teenagers.
Have well-thought-out reasons behind your rules.
Sometimes the reasons behind your rules might be a little less clear (even to you), but typically there is a good reason for the things that we tell our kids…
“You need to be kind to your friends so that they will want to play with you.”
“You need to brush your teeth so that they don’t start to hurt.”
“You need to pick up your toys so that they don’t get stepped on and broken or lost.”
“You need to eat your food so that your belly doesn’t
get hungry while we’re at the park.”
“You need to go to bed so that you aren’t grouchy and tired tomorrow.”
Also, it is worth mentioning that if you can’t think of a good, practical reason then maybe it shouldn’t be a rule!
Take the time to explain your reasoning.
It can be hard to take the time to explain these things to your child especially when it seems like such a minor thing like putting on shoes before leaving the house.
When you are heading out the door, and your child needs to put their shoes on, you don’t always feel like explaining why they need to wear shoes. However, taking the time to logically explain the reasons that we wear shoes (so we don’t step on anything ouchy, so our feet don’t get cold or dirty, because stores require us to wear shoes, etc.) prevents future battles over the same issue.
The more you explain your reasoning, the more it becomes a habit. It will soon start to become second nature for you to think through your “why” before asking something of your children. And your children will start to learn the reasons behind the rules so there doesn’t have to be an explanation every single time!
Be grateful that your children are inquisitive.
A big reason for explaining your “why” is so your children can make decisions for themselves. You won’t always be around to tell them what to do.
Giving them a glimpse into your thought process allows them to learn to make similar decisions for themselves. It allows them to be more independent, gives them leadership skills, and builds their confidence. There are many rules that exist for the well-being and safety of themselves and those around them. We want our children to understand the gravity of those rules, and the risks of breaking them.
However, we don’t necessarily want our children to blindly follow the rules. As they grow up, they will be surrounded with more and more people (aside from their parents) that will be telling them what to do. These could be ill-intending peers or adults, and we don’t want our children to simply obey for the sake of obeying.
You want your children to know their own “why” behind their actions so they can thrive in their own unique way!