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  Chapter 27 from
It's Not As Tough At Home As You Think
Making Family Life Smoother and Better

By Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski 

Other Available Chapters
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Rules Aren't Made To Be Broken

Raising children is tough. In the first Its Not As Tough As You Think I suggested that this is one situation where it might even be tougher than you think. Even if so, we should still try and find ways to smooth out the bumps.

One of the most difficult problems parents confront is that children today are more defiant than in times past. The 1960s appear to have been a watershed. Respect for authority dwindled to imperceptibility. Why, when I was in grade school we trembled at the thought of being sent to the principal’s office. Today’s children couldn’t care less. Today teachers tremble lest a student eludes the metal detectors and sneaks in with firearms.

All authority has suffered. Court orders are openly defied. Religious leaders find that their flocks do pretty much what they please. Police are on the defensive. Given this cultural attitude, how can we get our children to listen to us?

I think the only chance we have is to show them how it’s done. Parents should be a model of deference to authority. Let’s think a moment. When is the last time we deferred to authority?

Whether or not you have a “fuzz-buster,” violating the speed limit and taking pride in how you got away with it is far from uncommon. One may boast about having gotten away with it while the kids are in the back seat. What do they hear? Dad broke the law and didn’t get caught! Wow, that’s great! If that’s what we teach our kids, how can we expect them to obey our rules? All they will try to do is avoid getting caught.

Suppose a child in the back seat says, “Daddy, how come all those cars are passing you?” You say, “Billy, the speed limit here is 65. I don’t care what others do. I obey the law.” You’ve given Billy a powerful lesson in obeying the rules.

There are many other times when we can do this. Let’s make it a point to obey rules even if we don’t agree with them, even if we could get away with breaking them. Let’s model for our kids by deferring to authority even when we disagree with authority. This doesn’t guarantee that our children will listen to us, but it does give us a fighting chance.

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