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Kids Like Rules – They Just Don't Know It

Try telling that one to any kid you know and you will get a big fat, “NO!”  But really, deep down, kids get it.  The older they get, the better they can appreciate it.  Granted, kids don’t like following rules when it means they can’t do what they want.  But aside from that, kids really do understand the benefits of rules.  Here
are just a few.

They Know Who Is In Charge

Kids feel more at ease and secure when they know who’s running the show.  I know some kids would like to believe it is them (when it comes to fun stuff).  But when things get serious and difficult, kids are all too happy to leave that up to the adults.

Even though my five year old would like to be the Queen of Everything most days, I know she wouldn’t want to be in charge of a tornado drill or a real life fire evacuation.  That’s adult stuff, as it should be.  When kids really know who is running the show, they can relax and be carefree.  They don’t have to worry about all the serious details.  They just need to respect and follow the person in charge, and the adults will take care of the rest.

They Know They Have A Fair Chance

Games are all about rules.  And kids are ruthless about calling out someone who appears to be cheating or doing something unfair.  The goal of many games is to win, and everyone expects to have their fair chance at it.  If they lose but everyone is following the rules, they can take the loss better and muster up the courage to try again.  But if they lose and they know someone was changing the rules on them, they know it’s unfair.

Nobody wants to be around someone who cheats and gets around authority.  It might seem cool to some kids, but most look down upon that behavior.  This applies at home, too.  It’s important for kids to know how to get privileges and what you expect from them.  They can know exactly how to earn their movie night, their dessert, and their friend time.  They follow the rules and they get rewarded.  Simple as that.

They Learn To Develop Habits and Routines

Rules about limited TV time, rules about brushing teeth, rules about eating all their vegetables before having dessert – these are all good habits disguised as rules.  If left to their own devices, why would a kid stop doing something fun to wash their face or floss?  No way, wouldn’t happen.  But try teaching a 28 year old about brushing their teeth twice a day – just a little harder!

The time to start good basic healthy habits is now.  Your job as the parent is to teach them the beginnings of these good habits.  Eventually, you hope they take hold of these habits because they see value in them.  Kids have very few naturally occurring self control skills.  Rules, however annoying, make a strong imprint over time inside their little brains.  As an adult, they have the skills to start and establish other good habits besides the ones you taught them.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Do you have another idea about how kids benefit from rules?  As always, I love to hear your input on my posts.

Kids Like Rules – They Just Don't Know It

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2009). Kids Like Rules – They Just Don't Know It. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 25, 2019, from


Last updated: 7 Oct 2009
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