Earlier this week I tried to institute a rule in my house with my kids. It’s the first time I’ve tried to do this in years. Apparently I needed to do it again to remember why rules don’t make sense.

Today, three days after we made it as a family, we broke “the rule” (no Youtube in the afternoons) because 1) I wasn’t in the headspace to be able to fully engage my kids (hormones kicking in strong) and 2) my kids didn’t watch Youtube in the morning like they usually do, so they were ready for some downtime in the afternoon.

And this reminded me why rules don’t make sense. Because there are too many factors that influence us everyday to be able to make blanket statements about what is going to be best for all parties involved in every single instance. For my Youtube rule, we aren’t factoring in what we did in the morning, how much sleep we got the night before, whether the kids are physically well, whether my cycle is influencing me hormonally… you get the picture.

I also realized today, though, that this is why rules in general don’t make sense. Inside the home, there are varied factors that prevent rules from being effective in all cases. Outside the home, well… there are a million more factors. And so when society, government, or the rules of law suggest that they know what is best for all people in all situations, it’s almost laughable. For regulations to be made at a federal level with the intention of being “best for all” just seems absurd. Even at the provincial/state or municipal level, families and individuals vary so widely that what makes sense for one rarely will make sense for the other.

Am I saying that you should go out and break every law? I don’t think so – those that make sense for you should continue to apply. But I wish that our way of life acknowledged this disparity and allowed room for flexibility based on individual instances and unique needs.

Likewise, when we set goals for ourselves, sometimes it feels like we are setting temporary mini rules for ourselves and it can be so damaging. I recently tried to set a goal for myself to run 4k every day with no excuses. I was used to running about 10k a week so this wasn’t out of the question. But after about day 10, my feet started to cramp while I was sleeping and I realized that it wasn’t worth my long term well being. So I broke the rule, changed my goal. I was flexible enough to meet the demands of life. Did I fail? Technically, yes. Do I view it as a failure? Not at all. I learned and adapted.

I think there’s some folks in the unschooling world that say we should live by principles rather than rules and I don’t think I truly understood that statement until now. I thought it was just a play with language but I see the difference now. Principles guide our actions rather than tell us how to live.