Are kids rebellious because parents are rule breakers?

We have a regular that sent in a topic near and dear to my heart — situational ethics. She wonders if parents are teaching their kids to break rules by breaking  small rules themselves that they don’t think matter. Here is what she wrote:

“We began talking about children’s behavior. Often, educators will  tell you that some children today are more disrespectful and have  less manners, than 20 years ago.  I asked them why they thought so. This mom is NOT a teacher. She mentioned that she sees co-workers, in their 30’s who are not apt to follow rules. She is baffled!  They tell her, ” I am not going to do that…” She replies, “the  boss asked you to do it and it is your job..” Their reply, ” well I am not going to do it.” So, we are wondering if this is trickling down to children not  wanting to follow rules, as they observe this at home. Are people today less apt to follow rules and more apt to challenge them? Does this mean we are less respectful of others and more self centered? Are you a rule follower? When, if any time, is it o.k. to break the rules? Do you teach your children to follow all rules or question all rules? Whose rules would you or do you need to accept 100% Do your children see you balking at rules…how does this affect their attitude towards  rules? What do you want your children to know about rules?

I think at this point most parents would say “Oh no, definitely not. I wouldn’t teach my kids to break rules.’

Well then the regular sent a follow-up note with some examples of broken rules:

“If you think the rules are trivial…do you just break them:

10 items or less in a grocery line

speed limit or stop signs
no pets allowed in hotels
pool rules…i,e, no one under age 14 without an adult over 18 ( this
one is often broken in our neighborhood).”

I think one parents break a lot without batting an eye is taking their kids out for vacations and then writing them a sick note when they get back.

So what do you think: A. Do kids misbehave more because their parents are modeling this? Is there a gap between behavior of younger generations of parents and older generations of parents — ie 20-somethings who started young and parents who started late in their 40s?

Do you break “little rules” around your kids? Do you break rules that you think don’t really matter or don’t affect anyone else? How many have you broken on the regular’s list? What about vacation lies? Do you think they pick up on it?

75 comments Add your comment


March 18th, 2011
3:25 pm

Poll: What do Bradford Pear trees smell like to you?


March 18th, 2011
4:11 pm

@jarvis What do you think they smell like?


March 18th, 2011
4:38 pm me they smell like crap..In the SD where I live, the builder planted one in every yard.. They are very pretty when they bloom, but that’s about it..


March 18th, 2011
6:00 pm

I think they smell like a body product.


March 18th, 2011
6:38 pm

@jarvis…Funny you should say that because I have a friend who swears she can smell Bradford pear blooms from a mile away and that they smelled like musty body odor. I swore (behind her back) that I iit’s all in her head because I have been surronded by them for 12 years and have never smelled them. Like Becky’s neighborhood our builder put two in each front yard (one on each side of the driveway). When I got home this afternoon I stood in the yard talking to my neighbor and was nearly overcome by what smelled like week old body odor and though that I discreetly did an underarm check. My neighbor saw it and laughed & told me she had checked herself the first few times she smelled it until she realized it was the trees. :-D


March 18th, 2011
7:31 pm

@jarvis – Dead fish! 3 in my old neighbor’s backyard. Ungodly stench and limbs down every time the wind blew.


March 18th, 2011
7:59 pm

I use Bradford Pears as a lesson to teach the vocabulary word “ubiquitous”.


March 19th, 2011
12:04 am

They smell like semen.

Enemas for Easter

March 19th, 2011
9:02 am

Another lame blog.


March 19th, 2011
11:54 am

@ Layla…I have never heard your take and am quite interested. Can you share where you got the information? Here is what I found:

several choices and maybe I missed something?


March 19th, 2011
12:39 pm

looks like she deleted an earlier post that reminded us of a blog from deep into the drought where she bragged about breaking the drought rules, let her kids run through sprinklers, how she filled and emptied the kiddie pool as it got dirty, but it was ok, she had agreed with the other neighborhood moms that they would split the fine, so it was ok. yea, she deleted it.


March 19th, 2011
12:55 pm

MJG, Barnes’ notes come the closest to translating the text as Layla did but the interpretation is very different seeing “own way” as recognizing all children are different and parents should raise them as works best for each individually. In terms of understanding the translation, I think Clarke’s commentary that parses the original Hebrew text is most interesting.


March 20th, 2011
9:13 am

Kids learn most of their bad stuff at home. The rest of it they learn from peers who learned bad stuff at home.


March 20th, 2011
10:32 am

Rules are broken by kids because either the rules are bad or the rules are good but the kids don’t know any better… they’re so often, here in the US, fed bad food, offered entertainment & mythology (Christianity) instead of ethics or truth, they’re so often left to their own devices… left to raise themselves… they’re taught that big issues are trivial, they’re generally raised badly, so there we are.
-kids copy their parents yes… by the way, if someone (child or otherwise) thinks that everything is part of God’s plan, then why would they bother doing the moral thing? If they think they can just say, “sorry” to the voice in their head, why bother being good? That mythological thinking which is indistinguishable from schizophrenia is massively damaging. Religion & a lack of respect for ethics & for evidence-based rational thinking (science) is a huge problem.

mom of two/teacher

March 20th, 2011
11:11 am

There is no debate about this subject where I work – a high school in metro Atlanta. The student who has little or no for respect for teachers – they have little to no respect for their parents. The student who is respectful, hard working and cares about their grades – they have parents who have taught them manners, respect and a good work ethic.
Breaking “little” rules is a matter of opinion. A “rule” that is often broken at my school is being on time to school. And the school encourages tardiness by “holding the bell” on rainy days so that fewer students are tardy!! The reason they are tardy is that so many parents “have to” drive their children to school rather than put them on the bus.
Lack of following the rules is part of our culture today – this is seen even in the smallest of courtesies – how many times do you have someone say to you “you’re welcome” when you say “thank you”? I know this seems trivial to many, but it used to be part of our culture and people actually meant it!


March 20th, 2011
11:15 am

The problem starts with parents letting the children reject/change what the parent or authority decides. Examples: Kids in preK can decide what activities that they want to participate in, no authority to force them to participate. Parent tells the child to do something and the child complains enough for the parent to not have the child do it. When I was a child, whining did not change what had been decide by my parents, it got me punished. These things have changed over the last 40 years.

It is not about following the speed limit. Which is a silly rule. If most people do not agree with the speed limit as it is currently set, why should it stay there? It is not saving lives, most people do not follow it.


March 20th, 2011
12:10 pm

I have a retail store. A young boy broke a piece of merchandise and showed it to his mother right in front of the register (and me) and she put it back on the table and walked away. RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! She left first and then eventually the boy left and I asked him to send her back in. She came in and I asked if she didn’t plan on paying for the merchandise her son broke. She went and picked it up without a word and placed it on the register. I said “That’s one hell of an example of honesty to show to your kid, lady.” Still not a word. She paid and walked out.

And she will wonder why he is dishonest.

japanese homogeneity

March 20th, 2011
1:07 pm

it’s much easier to avoid looting when the citizenry are the same religion, same color, and the political parties are not waging an us versus them campaign. Class warfare in the US is ripping us apart, and it has nothing to do with upbringing or religion. It’s all about money and power.

therese persaud

March 20th, 2011
1:43 pm

How long have we gone on with this standardized testing in the schools ? Will we ever revert back to EDUCATION and dealing with the Whole Child?


March 20th, 2011
2:11 pm

All people regularly break rules which make no sense to them. This applies to you, me, and our children – w/out exception.

It isn’t until there is a consequence that can be seen or felt personally that a certain rule begins to make sense and people begin to follow the rule. One of the first rules upon venturing into the world for children is to not step into an ant bed, and yet children don’t really look for them until bitten a few times. Now, it’s important. So it goes will all “rules” and “laws”.

So, what of rules which have consequences which can’t be seen or felt or have personal impact for many years. How consequential is the rule? Building a house on a flood plain which hasn’t flooded in 50 yrs, smoking, sexual relations with the same sex, sexual relations within the same family, not learning how to swim, learning how to drive a stick shift, knowing how to handle a gun, learning a long-term skill or trade, having many spouses instead of just one, taking a day of rest regularly.

Jumping from a moving vehicle provides immediately satisfying consequences which support and reinforce the rule. Taking home a pen from work every day, not so much. An open campfire in the yard. Burning leaves. Killing a bald eagle for lunch. Raising chickens/hens for eggs and meat. Fishing with nets for food.

For most of these rules, the only immediate consequence is going to jail. They have little or no immediate negative impact, other than socially. aka “We don’t approve of that behavior.” Pants hanging low, short skirts, drinking in public, spitting on the sidewalk. In Saudi Arabia, showing the sole of a foot at another, in the U.S. shooting ‘the bird’ (edited out from the movie Top Gun for television), so as not to offend. So is it offensive, a rule, or a law. Laws are generally deemed to be guaranteed consequences whether you feel the impact immediately or not. Rules or guidelines generally assist you to get where you want to be faster and safer. Offenses are usually unappreciated behaviors people would prefer to be a law and therefore create a consequence to deter a behavior with no actual consequence other than social.

And what does all this mean? Nothing. I’m merely a person elaborating on the question at hand. Tweeting, “I feel good.” While in the dugout on a pro ball-field? The perfect insecticide / it kills everything. It’s all a matter of the consequences as to whether any rule/law/regulation is followed. Don’t go out after dark… If you masturbate you’ll go blind… Keep making that face and it’ll be there forever.

Unfortunately, there are so many manufactured consequences that people don’t trust what they’re told anymore, until they are hit by a natural personal impact as a result of their actions. And right or wrong, this is the way it will be, the law be d*md


March 20th, 2011
2:26 pm

OH… My sister’s guide to solving the climbing problem of her toddler – witnessed at the shoe rack of a McDonald’s ball pit. Paid absolutely no attention to him other than to remind him, “You know if you climb up there, I’m not going to help you get down.” and kept eating while we talked (Looking back, I think the warning was actually for me :)

He made it to the top and back down with no consequence other than my initial surprise at my sister’s approach to the matter. Must have been worked out previously as matter-of-factly as she’d handled it.


March 20th, 2011
3:00 pm

mom of two…re: manners. I give away FREE books and Cd’s at my educational venues. Typically $50 to $100 worth of things per session…I pay for these myself. Out of 8-10 teachers who come up to the front and claim their prize, in front of the group…4 might say thank you. WHAT is up with that? If someone passed me a straw for the Coke I was drinking…I would say thanks! Manners are becoming extinct.

Dlink…My neighbor just had someone run into her mailbox yesterday. It was knocked on the ground and broken. No note or apology. Hubby is out there right now fixing it. He has always been good about looking out for the neighbors. He went to Home Depot to get the parts. Civility is just something we, as neighbors share. We take turns assisting those who may need it. No consequences for the person who trashed her mailbox but we are happy to help her fix it. People, to me, do not often seem to care about things like this.


March 20th, 2011
3:02 pm

@japanese…so, should those of us who have worked hard and have some cash share it with those who have no aspiration to succeed…would this solve the dilemma?
@therese…seems to me that manners are respect are as much a part of parenting as tying shoes and brushing teeth…hmmm.


March 20th, 2011
3:10 pm

@somewhere…I recently shopped at Ross Dress for Less. An unattended 8 ish year old was carrying a 3 foot ceramic statue of a leopard alone. No adult in sight. I carefully said, “You might want to set that down…” The Mom came around the corner and gave me a dirty look. Well, I would not have to pay for it but if it were my kid, I would have said…thanks! Guess I should mind my own business?


March 20th, 2011
8:43 pm

Ah, don’t you love the products of the rebellious 60s and 70s? So many kids born then grew up “free” and encouraged to question authority — it was practically the mantra of the age. Add to that a heavy dose of a generation of parents who have spent the last twenty years trying to “give” their child “self-esteem,” and you’ve created a generation of kids and young people who think that the world begins and ends with them and their wants and needs. Parents can’t teach what they, themselves, don’t know and don’t understand. Manners are a part of everyday life, and either you have them, or you don’t — it’s not memorizing the Miss Manners book, it’s a frame of mind in which you understand that you, yourself, are not the center of the universe. Unfortunately, so many kids are raised to BE the center of the universe. While “My Super Sweet 16″ is an over-the-top example, the “Me-Me-Me” generation see themselves as the reason the sun rises and sets, simply because they exist. It’s proven out over the increased bullying and cyberbullying (in spite of all the intervention programs schools have tried to implement) — heck, Facebook, alone, is an amazing window into the psyche of so many of these narcissistic kids. So many of them do “service projects” — but only as a social outlet or because they are required to (sorta like “community service” decreed by the court). And while I’ll get blasted for this, I believe that there are a LOT of kids who would benefit from being exposed to regular religious training. It’s not a cure-all, but it does help lay a foundation that parents can build on.

@shaggy — no smacking with a ruler, today — I agree with everything in your 7:42 am post :-)