Arbitrary Rules: Absolute Risk

Arbitrary Rules: Absolute Risk

I was recently asked, “If you don’t punish your children, how will they learn that in the world there are laws with consequences if they are broken?”

We live life with laws part of our world everyday with our children. We model for them how to live with laws and they witness what happens when we break laws, like getting a ticket for speeding. We were told by our parents that punishing us was necessary to “teach” us about consequences in life. However, arbitrary rules and punishments for the sake of teaching us models unrealistic circumstances and inauthenticity. This damaged our relationship with our parents –  the very foundation so crucial to learn and grow from. When we do this to our children our positive influence  in their life is destroyed. Ulterior motives, through arbitrary limits and rules aren’t honest and our children know it.

It is completely unnecessary to create arbitrary limits and artificial consequences and wield power over our children to teach them that there are laws in the world. In fact, doing so will create such confusion and frustration within them that they are at a great disadvantage in life through built up resentment and pain from someone they love being cruel and unjust towards them all for the sake of a lesson that they will learn just through living life by our side. There are real life limits, laws and natural consequences all around us and our children experience them with us. It is unnecessary and damaging to create them artificially in the home, when time spent controlling children could be time connecting with them.

Through discussion and modelling, our children learn not only about the laws in our world, but they have the added benefit of a rock solid foundation of love, support and trust with us as parents. This is what is severely lacking in the authoritarian paradigm of parenting and this  puts children raised this way at a great disadvantage in life.

Loving parents never need to be mean to their children to “prepare them for the real world.”  When living in partnership, children learn better and more realistically, without hypocrisy as the backdrop of their upbringing. When Love is the guiding force of learning about our world, instead of fear, we prepare children to live in our world with reverence and love for others, and allows them to be in a place of acceptance and understanding for the laws that they choose to live with.


  1. Yes, it seems to me that just living as a human being shows the existence of natural consequences of our actions — if we slip, gravity brings us down to earth, and if we don’t eat, we get hungry, and so on. I think one of the dangers of imposing an additional system of rules and punishments is that kids will continue to follow those rules for the rest of their adult lives even when the parents who benefited from them are no longer around. One example would be a rule like “don’t ask personal questions” or “don’t talk to strangers” — I found myself trying to obey those childhood rules even as an adult because they were all I knew, and I had to discard them to get the kind of connections I wanted with people.

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