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No child needs to be taught how to break rules. They do that all on their own with great enthusiasm. The hard part seems to be getting you little munchkins to follow any rules at all.

When you read this you might get confused. I’ve put a lot of time and energy into disciplining you when you break our rules. Why then would I want you to learn how to break them?

Because not all rules are worth following and blind rule-following is mindless submission at its best, and at its worst is the club and shield behind which brutal people hide.

I want you neither to be mindless, nor to bury your own sense of morals behind the screen of someone else’s rules.

I’m using the term “rules” here but you may substitute any synonym that applies: laws, regulations, directives, policy–any set of principles meant to govern you and your behavior. I am talking about them all.

The first step in breaking rules is knowing the rules.

It is absolutely possible to break a rule you didn’t know existed. If you’re lucky, you’ll only do it once or twice in your life. When you do, you will likely feel stupid. You feel stupid because you were ignorant and you did something careless that caused trouble without intent. My hope is that whatever rule you break in ignorance is relatively free of major, life-altering consequences.

To quote your grandmother, you can’t effectively break a rule until you know what it is. If you’re going to break a rule, for god’s sake, do it effectively. Do it because you knew the rule, you understood the rule and you made a deliberate choice to break it.

Learn the rules. Wherever you go. Wherever you are. Learn the laws, the policies, the guidelines, the standards. Study them until you understand them. If you are unclear of them, ask for clarification. A thorough understanding of the rules and what is expected of you in the environments you will live, work and play within will serve you well throughout your life and keep you from making foolish and careless mistakes.

Secondly, respect the rules.

Let me be clear. Rules were not made to be broken. And anyone who tells you they are is an idiot.

No teacher, governor, parent, administrator, employer, etc, creates a list of expectations hoping that people will break them. If they are smart, they will construct a process to determine consequences in the eventuality that they will be broken, but no one creates rules for the express reason of seeing them broken. Not without being a sadist (but that’s another topic for another time).

Most rules, no matter how they are constructed, no matter how stupid, are done in the interest of protecting something. It might be to protect a resource, employees, life, order, health.

You’ve heard me tell you a thousand times that we do not make rules with the intent of making your life miserable. I promise you, for the most part, wherever you go, you will find that to be the case.

To that end, always respect a rule. Even if you fully intend on breaking it.

If you respect it, you can more effectively decide how to break it.

Respect the intent of the rule and understand that the people who constructed that rule will see your act of defiance as a lack of respect for them.

If you respect them, consider confronting them. If not, understand you are likely ending that relationship with your actions.

Which brings me to my third and final point.

Understand that by breaking a rule you are willingly accepting the consequences of your actions.

Herein is the final rub. As we raise you, we are trying desperately to instill in you that every action you take has consequences. Some of those consequences are good, but some of them are bad. From time to time, you break rules because, to you, the consequences of your actions are not severe enough to deter you.

The consequences you experience in your young lives are tame. As you get older, however, the consequences for your actions could be most severe.

You could lose a job or an opportunity. You could be sent to prison. You may end a life. You may forfeit your own right to life and be killed.

Every rule you break has a value attached to it. That value could be monetary, it could be a relationship, it could be life itself. And when you break that rule, you are saying that you are willing to pay that price.

Make sure it’s worth it.

Because if it isn’t. You will suffer.

I cannot decide for you what will be worth it. You will have to figure that out on your own. I will do my best to help you find your own moral code as you grow. My hope is that your moral code does not permit for harm to come to innocent life. I hope that your code requires you to deal honorably and honestly with all men. I hope your code includes kindness, compassion, but also a sense of justice and strength, discernment, and wisdom.

Strength even to stand up to an unjust or unfair rule.

Discernment to determine when a rule is wroth breaking and when it is not. The wisdom to determine how to go about it.

If you must break a rule, I hope you only do it in the interest of bettering life, and never in the interest of harm.

Never break a rule in order to harm someone or violate someone’s life or livelihood. Don’t be that person. Respect the autonomy, rights, assets and the lives of those around you.

If the rule you are about to break needlessly puts others in harms way, I hope you get caught. If I ever find out you are breaking rules that can lead to the injury or harm of other innocent people, I will turn you in myself.

Be exceptionally cautious with any and all safety rules. Chances are, if you think a safety rule is dumb, you are probably gambling with your life or limb.

If you feel a rule is unjust or unnecessary, do all you can to change it before you break it. If you can’t change it, go somewhere where it’s not an issue. Your last resort should be breaking it.

If you are caught, own it.

Now is not the time to whine and talk about how unfair it is. You knew what was going to happen. If you didn’t, you were a fool.

There will be times when people will ask you to break rules on their behalf. First, determine if their request violates your own personal moral code. If it does, please don’t do it. You do not want that kind of moral trauma on your conscience. If it doesn’t, make sure you fully understand what is being asked of you and the consequences of your actions. There are people and causes in whom it is worth getting involved. Many, however, will only leave you in ruin–financially, emotionally, morally.

You may come across someone in authority whose sole purpose is to make rules in order to control under the guise of safety. Before you support or oppose them, try to understand them and their motivations. Remember that total security is the death of liberty and your autonomy is valuable. Do not give it away lightly. Fight for it, if you must.

No matter you affiliations, be cautious in supporting restricting the rights of others merely because the rules are wrapped in your team’s flag.

Above all, I want you to think for yourself. I want you to understand why it is good for you to follow the rules and laws of people who are trying to build and foster a balanced, just world that is as safe as it can be without treading on the rights and freedoms of those who live in it. I want you to reason and understand why rules meant to control or restrict freedom of thought, expression, religion or autonomy should be approached suspiciously.

Do not casually play with consequences, but do not blindly follow any rule.

It is the discerning minds of those who can tread carefully between these concepts that help balance a safe and prosperous world with one that is filled with life that is free to be enjoyed.