Life Lessons - Breaking the Rules


Breaking the Rules

*First published, though now revised, on our other website: more 2 explore


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, humility, all the while instilling in them an independent, guiding ethical code of conduct. Essentially, those standards provide children with the power to discern what is correct at any given moment.


But something we might neglect to teach our children when arming them with morality, 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 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 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 paled 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 that I am well into 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, that are independent of law or others, children begin to understand that consequences often 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 and to take 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 true motives behind establishing rules. We must contemplate rules enforced without genuine thought, which may pave a dangerous path to potentially harming individuals and suppressing personal freedoms. I want my children to understand the “why” that may accompany a regulation and for not backing down in the face of adversity. I admire that immensely in others, my children will be no exception.


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, 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 things to change, breaking the 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.


For a topic that hasn’t fully reared its head (though it is brewing), I thank the author for publishing words that some might find off – putting or controversial to some. Discussions such as this are necessary, especially now. 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, breaking laws and relying on their own morality can be tricky, but Marc Peruzzi does a fine job of taking the plunge by bringing a tough issue to the surface.


In closing, I thank Marc, especially now, in our climate of us vs. them. Of polarizing politics that have the ability to enforce ridiculous mandates, ignore looming predictions, and abandon truth for the sake of senseless gains. Sometimes rules must be discarded because they should have never been established in the first place. And as Martin Luther King Jr. said, "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 responsibility and a responsibility that should be taught and reinforced at every age.


*Side - note, as I wrote and rewrote this piece, I realized that though these words were aimed at parents and their children, the truth of the matter is, the subject resonated deeply with me. Perhaps as we teach lessons to our children, we too can learn a great deal from the words we impart. I for one, am embracing every notion of questioning at this stage in my life and in our climate of irrational thinking that aims to separate the collective.


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