Thursday, 3 April 2014

Are we teaching kids rules...or values?

I've been hearing a lot of on the mommy blogging world about teaching kids to follow rules. The thinking, it seems, is that too many families have gotten away from enforcing rules. And that is the reason du jour for all our social ills, school problems and economic meltdowns.

And to that I say, phoey. Donkey-dust-and-chicken-feathers. No, no and heck no! If I was a swearing woman, I would swear about now. Because that simplistic approach misses the real problem.

There are PLENTY of rules out there. More than enough rules. And more being added every minute of every day, because we live in a culture in which the solution to almost every ill is to make another rule.

Right now, kids have to abide by rules about what you can wear to school and what subjects you have to take to graduate (regardless of your talents or interests.)

For adults, there are rules about IDs and names and even rules about over-the-counter cold medicines (never mind that the same ingredient can be cheaply bought in bulk online.)  We have size rules for our hand lotion and shampoo when we fly and rules about proving your right to do a really crudy, dirty manual labor job nobody else wants.

What we don't have enough of are values. Not beliefs. Those are personal and in all likelihood should be kept to yourself. (Yeah, I'm not big on people trying to convince other people about faith issues.)

I'm talking about the be-a-decent-person kind of basics. The ones we're doing a miserable job sharing with our kids.  Like....

Be kind to other people (Witness the ever-growing bullying problem and the mainstreaming of hate)

Take care of people who are hungry or cold or sick (Instead we have a war on the poor)

Take care of what you have (Nope. We're gutting environmental protections and alternative fuel research in the name of profit.)

Families matter more than wealth  (Heck with that, we're told. Hire a nanny (at minimum wage) and go for the corner office, no matter what the cost. Your career success comes first! You might even get a best seller out it!)

Learn as much as you can (Hint: that does NOT mean "teaching" kids how to work the standardized test maze. It means learning wherever and whenever you can, even if it's NEVER on the page of a test.)

Believe in something bigger and better and more merciful than yourself  (And no, the Internet doesn't count!)

There are more. The value of forgiveness. Of seeing the worth in every being. The value of honesty, even when it's hard. The value of own up to your mistakes. You get the idea. And I'm sure you could add more.

But if we're rules focused, we will miss the values we should be sharing, encouraging, living.

Sure, some rules are essential for kids. Of course. Trust me, I am not a fan of domestic anarchy. Those kinds of rules become a framework for something bigger.

But if our rules at home and at school are just for the sake of teaching kids to obey rules, rather than passing on cherished values, they're not the right answer to whatever social ill we're trying to over-simplify this time. They're just a box to lock them in.

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