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Life Lessons - Breaking the Rules

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

I hadn’t really thought much about it until I read an article years ago from Outside Magazine entitled, “Doing Right Means Sometimes 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, and humility, all the while instilling in them an independent, guiding ethical code they can rely on to navigate this life.

But something we might neglect to teach our children when arming them with morality or guiding them to determine their own personal code of conduct, is when to question rules. Teaching our children to abide by laws and regulations is in many cases very helpful, however, children and adults, should be encouraged to question decisions imposed by public authorities and others. Better yet, we should be modeling strong behavior that encourages our children to think independently, critically think, and more importantly, to stand up for what they believe in, regardless of the masses.

If we stand beside our children with a pointed finger and harsh repercussions 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.

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 waned as I grew older. As I aged, I became more interested in fading into the norm, attempting to do what was “right” to simply appease the majority and not go against the tide. Now, in adulthood, I feel less inclined to put my head down and follow. I have started to question everything the way I had previously done as a child.

There is something to be said about encouraging our children to make decisions on their own and to ascertain risk for themselves. By considering their choices, children begin to understand that consequences will follow decisions. I, for one, want my children to know that there is a time to stand proud and determined to protect their beliefs and personal values by taking risks when necessary. It is the importance of questioning those in “power” and understanding why those individuals are authorized to set regulations for the masses. It’s about inquiring and being able to understand the "why" behind established rules. We must contemplate rules enforced without genuine thought, which may pave a dangerous path to potentially harming individuals and suppressing personal freedoms.

As children begin to work through these important processes, knowledge is acquired. There is a tremendous sense of freedom and personal responsibility when children know they are quite capable of making their own decisions based on what they recognize as fact in the face of danger, peer pressure or authority. That sense of knowing and self-reliance is essential in today’s world.

And for those who may scoff at the notion of breaking rules, questioning authority or standing up for what is right (when appropriate), then I ask you to think back on major historical events. Without the ability to question or demonstrate personal choice and beliefs: change, progression and equality may have never been realized. For change to manifest, breaking rules became an essential component required for forward progression.

As the author, Marc Peruzzi, 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.” These simple lines say it all. We must be willing to test the waters when nothing is required of us, so that in the moments that truly count we can unleash what we deem crucial in the face of opposition.

I thank the author for publishing words that may seem off-putting or controversial to some. Discussions such as this are essential for critical thinking and establishing a personal code of ethics. Perhaps the moral of this story is to teach our children to think for themselves and to care a little less about how they are perceived by others. We must all learn to ride our own waves in this life. Teaching children to question authority, asking why and relying on their own morality can be tricky, but Marc Peruzzi does a fine job of bringing a tough issue to the surface.

In closing, I thank Mr. Peruzzi for encouraging deep thought on a topic that touches us all. In parting, I'll draw on wise words from Martin Luther King Jr., "One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws." Yes, indeed, that is our human oligation and a responsibility that should never be neglected!

Article link here.

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