Embrace, don't fight the rules

Teaching Your Child

Teaching Your Child

October 03, 2008|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

From time to time, my children will complain about a rule that they have to follow. Sometimes it's a rule my husband and I enforce. Other times it's a rule at school.

Our kids might express frustration at a particular teacher because they view certain expectations as unrealistic.

Most of the time, my response is the same: Learn the rules, follow them and you'll be surprised at what you can do.

Authority figures are reluctant to listen to those who refuse to try. If you don't give it your all, why should the plan change for your benefit?

Our society is accustomed to avoiding difficult tasks and long-range projects. If it can't be done overnight or if it takes elbow grease, let someone else do it. Leisure is valued above diligence.


Perhaps the task will get done according to established guidelines, but not without much murmuring and complaining. We'd rather seek empathy from our peers than follow someone else's agenda.

Government regulations? Too stiff.

Cultural barriers? Someone else's problem.

Workplace strife? Inflexible co-workers.

Blame becomes a fist striking through the air. It doesn't accomplish much, and it doesn't facilitate change. Neither does it empower the person who blames.

When that fatalistic mindset prevails, progress falters.

An unwillingness by parents to follow rules or accomplish goals set before us by supervisors filters down to our children.

Young people learn that the adults in their lives feel frustrated. Struggles become insurmountable. When we allow this to occur, our young people learn that their voice doesn't matter: "It's no use. No one will listen to me. They don't care. I've tried. Things won't change."

They wonder why they should bother.

But that doesn't have to be the norm.

Mounting an appeal

With a little effort, adults can demonstrate the right way to approach the establishment.

Research is the first step to dissecting a bothersome policy. What guidelines are in place in similar institutions? What works and what doesn't work?

An appeal garners strength when it is armed with information. Facts and statistics tend to bend the ears of those in charge. Authority figures notice those who extend extra effort.

It helps for the young person to know exactly what he or she would like to accomplish. Based on the information gathered, what should be done about the situation? What are the pros and cons of change? What recommendations could be given to those in charge?

Once a counter-proposal has been formulated, a plan for a respectful dialogue should be made.

What is the best way to communicate with the person in charge? Face-to-face? E-mail? Phone? Fax? Letter?

After the counter-proposal is presented and a response is given, acceptance is key. Sometimes appeals are rejected. The sooner young people learn that, the better. Most adults have learned how to make the most of an unpleasant situation. Some even have learned to thrive in those environments.

Young people might be surprised to learn that they can, too.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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