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Dad Foundations 3: Rules

Updated: Jan 16, 2023


It's easy to treat expectations in the same manner that we treat our rules at home. I remember that as my kids were getting out of their toddler years, I was constantly reminding and demonstrating how to behave in public, how to eat, and what side of the hallways to walk on. We live by a lot of expectations: how was I supposed to teach my kid all of this? To this I say: Expectations and rules are two different things that work together to keep order in our lives. Give them each a chance to do their jobs.


Let’s simplify it a little:

  • If I am lying, cheating, hurting, or stealing, I am probably breaking a rule.

  • If I don't ever help anyone, occasionally hold a door, or help a friend out that's in need, I may not be breaking a rule, but I am not living in compliance with the expectations of my family and/or society.

Both points above are or are rooted in expectations, but if you had to look at a rule book to remember to eat spaghetti with a fork and not a spoon, your carbs intake would decrease dramatically and you’d have a very thick book to lug around.

Remember this: a rule is a reminder of what is expected of us:

  1. “Keep your hands to yourself,” tells us not to hit, touch, or crowd other people without their permission.

  2. “No screens after 7:30,” reminds us that we have to get good sleep before the next day and that I have a routine of things I’m expected to do before getting into my bed.

  3. “Don’t take things without permission,” reminds us that we’re expected to respect other people’s space and property. We shouldn’t borrow, touch, utilize, or steal other peoples stuff.

To me, a rule is a reminder of a whole set of expectations my parents have instilled in me. I don’t have to have to remember each rule specifically because the expectations have been drilled into me. I have a choice on whether to put my hands on someone and suffer negative consequences, or not put my hands on someone and go home to my bed that night or even land a second date.


A foundation of expectations that are taught and practiced together will make the rules you set for your kids more familiar at home, school, and eventually, at work! They will have an easier time understanding and following rules and eventually develop critical thinking skills that are key for school, work, and life. Because if they know the expectations of people, the law, or science, they'll know the framework of the work ahead.



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