not mature enough yet to distinguish between a trivial rule that can get broken without repercussions and a big important one whose breach could cost them. So they can really mess up.
Second is the effect on the institution. A school can’t run with movable boundaries and rules that aren’t enforced. We all know camps and schools with permeable boundaries, and we know where that goes: These very quickly become institutions where rules are meaningless and chaos ensues. It’s not important whose “fault” this is, but it is important that every member of a community take responsibility for the well-being of the community; otherwise it falters.
Because schools are bigger than us, and they don’t tend to ask us parents to make their decisions, we imagine ourselves as very separate from them. But this is not so. Every community that we are a part of — schools, neighbourhoods, clubs, camps — both influences us and is influenced by us. A good school teaches our kids not only the three Rs, but also — and perhaps more important — to function as a positive member of the community.
That includes respecting the rules. The dumb ones as much as the smart ones, because that’s where the rubber hits the road and you get to practise respect. Rather a core life skill.
Bottom line: If I got a do-over on parenting, I’d sit my highschool-age son down and have lots of talks about the rules. Instead of scoffing at the silly ones, I’d engage him in inquiry, a discussion of why they have those rules, what effect it would have on the school and the kids if those rules didn’t exist, and what he might do about that stuff if he was in charge of the school. I’d try for him to talk more and me to talk less (always a challenge), and I’d hope for him to come to an understanding of the rules and a new-found respect for these rules, in particular, and rules in general. Because even the annoying ones matter. Parenting columnist Joanne Kates is an expert educator in the areas of conflict mediation, self-esteem and anti-bullying, and she is the director of Camp Arowhon in Algonquin Park.