Why we need more rules

August 21, 2019 · Print This Article

It’s been a day of nerves, joy, and I’m sure in some cases, tears for over 700,000 GCSE students as they discovered what their hard work (or not!) earnt them.

I was delighted to hear my friend’s daughter get the results she wanted. But I’m reminded what it took – sticking to rules though self-discipline: no phone, ample revision, and saying ‘no’ when you want to say ‘yes’ to your friends.

It works. Rules work. I know because I’m a secondary school teacher. I know where a no rule classroom leads to: a special kind of hell!

Head teacher Katharine Birbalsingh of Michaela School, a free school near Wembley, advocates for a stricter, more rules approach. “It’s good to have rules”, she says, “children know where they stand”. Her students are not doing too badly grand-wise, either.

Sadly, you can see the lack of rules play out in children’s lives. In shops, restaurants, holiday parks, or hotels we hear the familiar “No, stop doing that!” from mum and dad but the child just ignores them. Often, rules, and certainly consequences, are not part of our children’s experience. There are only going to be losers in this microcosm of anarchy.

Adults need rules too. After living in this rule and responsibility deprived society, are we once again seeking the reassurance of rules? After all, rules go a long way in helping us order the otherwise chaos of our daily life.

“Since the hippy days, we in the West have fed ourselves on a steady diet of freedom and rights”,[1] says the Jordan Peterson, author of bestselling self-help book 12 Rules for Life. His message of responsibility has taken the internet by storm and he’s now regarded as one of the leading intellectuals of our time.

He believes rules are important, too. And as a clinical psychologist, he’s seen enough hellish and chaotic lives so I’m not going to argue with him. Far from it; I agree with him.

His message is not about rules, but where following rules leads us. The meaning we extract from life is not to be found in our rights, but, instead, in responsibility; “In the care we take with ourselves, our families, and broader society surrounding us”.[2]

I guess the self-discipline it takes to keep any rule has other benefits, too. In keeping a rule – a commitment we make to ourselves – we strengthen our confidence and sense of worth.

So, taking my own advice, I decided to make a rule for myself: to eat my three meals a day at the appropriate time. On school holidays my breakfast, lunch and dinner times go a little wayward. But I’ve pretty much done kept my rule and I feel better for it!  What will your new rule be?

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

[1] https://www.bbc.com/ideas/videos/jordan-peterson-why-we-need-more-rules/p067c04l?playlist=imho
[2] Ibid
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