I have to confess to a slightly cavalier attitude towards rules. While I appreciate that it is my job as a parent to ensure my children grow up to be respectful, law-abiding citizens, at the same time I do encourage them to challenge authority.
I'm not saying I dare them to steal sweets from Sainsbury's or take them out joy riding or anything, but I do like them to question things.
When I was young, my parents encouraged me to challenge assumptions, and apart from one rather unfortunate incident when I was 10, and questioned, (rightly), my teacher's interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, it's never done me any harm.
My nine year old daughter Belle came home from school recently in a bad mood.
"What's up?" I asked her, as she scowled at the pavement.
"My teacher was really mean to me today," she answered. I wasn't immediately sympathetic, given her usual interpretation of 'being mean' - me asking her to clean her teeth, or have a drink or other similarly horrendous request.
"How was he mean?" I asked, swinging her hand encouragingly.
"I really wanted to go to the toilet," she confessed, "but he said I should have gone at playtime, and he made me wait an hour until lunchtime."
This did seem a trifle unfair to me.
"You should have just walked out," my teen chipped in helpfully, "and told him he had no right to tell you when you can and cannot pee."
This seems to be a fairly typical teenage reaction, frequently deployed at teachers. "But Miss," they shout, "you can't hit me with that stick/make me do homework/force me to write on paper and not the walls – that's against my human rights!"
Even as a teenager myself, sat in class, it was an argument I found highly irritating. I was a bit of a geek though. I just wanted all the naughty kids to be quiet so I could get on with my sums.
"Perhaps walking out would be a bit much," I reasoned, "but it does seem a bit mean to not let you just go to the toilet. Your toilets are horrid, it's not like you'd be going there just to hang out as a treat is it? Next time he won't let you go, you could just ask him why you're not allowed, and tell him you really need to?"
She looked dubious. "But he's the teacher!"
"Just because he's your teacher," I say, "doesn't mean that everything he says is right, and that you're not allowed to question anything he does."
"Really?" she eyes me suspiciously.
I talk with confidence, but inside I'm doubting myself.
Is it alright to tell a child that teachers aren't always right, or should us grown-ups be united in making kids believe we're never wrong, and should never be challenged?
I want to raise children who are confident and self-assured, but in the process am I simply creating arrogant, unruly little monsters who'll never do as they're told?
What do you think? Should children always abide by the rules or can they challenge them?
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