Friday, March 19, 2010, mid-morning Mountain Standard Time
Note to self, 5/2/14
The quote below about lakes and trees were from the Monday before March 19. Somewhere there might be a transcript of the Friday chat, and if so and it's found it should be added below and this note amended.

[FIND THE 3/19/10 CHAT if it exists, and put it below.]

If it's time for the chat, click here: (doesn't work anymore)
The password is: goodidea
The chat from Monday has provided a topic for Friday, March 19. Rules. What's wrong with rules? What do we mean "living by principles"? Is it just semantics? There are notes and links below this extract. I don't want to single out the mom, so I've changed her name to Mae. That's not her name, that's my grandmother's name.
Mae: I'm talking about our one safety rule, and it's actually "always have your big person when..." playing with fire, using knives...
I don't obsess, but, I for sure am into safety. I'm not going to insist on helmets when they are sledding, but I do want an adult with them, because I know kids with brain injuries from sledding. It's not unrealistic to expect a parent to be with the kids. It's not unrealistic to want your kids to have an adult with them for risky stuff

Schuyler: I cut myself playing with my dad's razor and bled all over the bathroom I kept the door locked and got rid of the blood and hid it because I knew I'd get in trouble if I got caught. I'd been told not to touch the razor. The big person rule whould have made me know that I'd get in trouble for playing with a knife without a big person.

Mae: It's not unrealistic to expect a parent to be with the kids. It's not unrealistic to want your kids to have an adult with them for risky stuff

Schuyler: No, but it may be unrealistic to expect a child to get a parent to be with them when there is something cool and exciting and potentially dangerous to do

Mae: I disagree. I don't want them on a frozen lake alone. period. We live in WI

Schuyler: Having the rule be their responsibilty is a liability. It is your responsibility to be there if they are hanging by lakes in Wisconsin

Mae: right, but because of the rule, they won't go on that lake without me, if they are at a friend's house, for instance.
We also talk about and explore dangerous stuff together, a lot. If there are things they need practice to be safe with we practice those things. But it isn't okay to go to the garage get the BB gun, and go shooting with your little brother and not an adult, even if you have gun safety. It's his gun, he doesn't have restricted access, but, for sure, i expect *him* to be the one to notify an adult if he is going to go have target practice.

Schuyler: I don't think the rule is what is keeping them safe. I think they are willing to listen to you because of other things. Other trust things. Rules didn't keep me safe, didn't keep me from talking to strangers, didn't keep me from accepting rides from strangers, didn't keep me from touching my dad's razor. They just kept me from telling my parents. They just worked as a barrier between me and them

Mae: It's a rule, because there are serious, dangerous consequences if you break it. In my mind, rules, just like saying no, are reserved for necessity,

Sandra: You would be dangerous to your children if they broke those rules, Mae?

Sandra: Or you mean the possibility of harm from icy lakes and fire would be the serious dangerous consequences?
Mae: no, the gun, and frozen lake would be

Sandra: But then you're kind of cursing them. Almost (MAYBE maybe not) as if you hope they'll get hurt if they do it without an adult. And that can be bad.

Mae: the possibility that they won't have access to help if they need it.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not rule happy, my teenage policy was to break every one I could. but, I do think that there is a time, and a place, and a use, for a rule

Schuyler: I think there is a time and a place for guidance, but I can't expect Simon or Linnaea to listen to me if I haven't been trustworthy in the past

beamantovani: how do you enforce the rule, Mae?

Mae: it's not a reward and punishment type of thing, it's more of an access thing

Glenda: Mae, when I read that the rule is for your kids to not go to the frozen lake without an adult, my immediate thought was "but what if they do?". Would it be better to say, "when you want to go to the frozen lake, I will take you"? Even if they're at a friend's house, you would be willing to go take them?

Mae: Glenda, the rule is: "the first rule of safety is... always have your big person with you." They insist it isn't "parent" because sometimes it's aunt or uncle, and there isn't a "punishment" if they break it, just that, uh oh, you need help, and it isn't there because you chose to break this rule I'm sorry I lost the part of the chat after that, where questions came up about whether "principle" wasn't just another word for "rule."

The topic of Friday's chat is drawn from the list of chat topics brainstormed the week before last: Rules vs. Principles.

There is more reading about that at the links below.

Deb Cunefare can't be at the chat on Friday, but she sent a note:
Sandra, Five years ago, my youngest son Patrick broke both his arms when he fell getting down out of the maple tree in our front yard. He was getting out of the tree because I'd asked him to, because I needed to leave to pick up his twin sister at the dance studio and was nervous about having him up in the tree when no one was home. :) But this story isn't about that. This is about the stories people told us while he was healing. Patrick had casts on both arms for 6 weeks. Everywhere we went, people would ask him about what had happened to him. And then, quite often, women would say something about hoping he'd stay out of trees now, or that THEIR children weren't allowed in trees, or they'd just sort of shake their heads and smile.

But the men who talked to him almost always told us about something they had done when they were kids that had ended badly, or something they'd done where they just escaped serious injury. Many many of the stories were about breaking parental rules, and many men had hidden serious injuries or lied to their parents about what had happened, or just never told them about adventures that didn't end in visible injuries. A forest preserve ranger who was running a fishing clinic for our homeschool group told us the worst one, about climbing a tree in his yard when his parents were away from home, and jumping out of the tree when his brother spotted their car, because they were never ever supposed to be up in the trees. He landed on construction debris, driving a nail through his boot and nearly completely through his foot. He was in his forties when he told us that story, and still had never told his parents about his injury, which he and his brother tended and worried over all that summer. As far as his parents ever knew, the tree rule had kept them all safe.

I don't think any of those men intended their stories to us to be about the philosophy of rule making. Certainly, none of them seemed to feel that the results meant that they should have followed the rules, nor were they suggesting to Patrick that he would be safer if he "followed the rules". They were commiserating with my son about being young and full of energy and derring do, and about the lure of physical challenges, testing yourself against the world, and messing up.


Rules vs Principles

Joyce Fetteroll, on logic, and why rules are a problem