Rules Kids Need to Break
Kids Need to Break Rules That Squelch Self-Identity, Researchers Say
WebMD News Archive
What Kids Need to Learn about Obeying, Breaking Rules continued...
But by the time kids reached age 7, they were much more likely to say story
characters felt good about following moral rules. And older children were
increasingly able to say characters would obey a rule even though it made them
That's a big development, Lagattuta and colleagues suggest. It's easy to
tolerate feeling good about obeying a rule
("feel good compliance") and easy to feel bad about breaking a rule ("feel bad
transgression"). But these are not the most developmentally advanced
"In some situations, notably when authority figures restrict actions
essential to sense of self or identity, judgments of 'feel bad compliance' and
'feel good transgression' may be more appropriate," Lagattuta and colleagues
Good Parent Rules, Bad Parent Rules
Children not only break rules that intrude on their sense of selves, but
they also they feel good about breaking these rules, Lagattuta and
What does this mean for parents?
The findings "argue for balance in promoting morality in young children: Not
only restricting actions that they should not do, but also helping them to
identify situations where they can assert personal control," Lagattuta
and colleagues say. "Such an approach does not advocate telling children to
blatantly disobey authority, but rather promotes helping children respectfully
negotiate socially and culturally acceptable areas of personal choice."
In a nutshell, the authors say, there's a need for adults to give kids the
space they need to make the connection between self-identity and personal
Not achieving this balance can be a problem.
"Over-regulation of the child's personal domain may be psychologically
harmful in that the adult not only restricts the child's ability to express him
or herself, but also evaluates that aspect of the child's identity as immoral
or unworthy," Lagattuta and colleagues say.
Although different rules may be perceived as involving moral duty or
personal identity in different cultures, the researchers note that studies from
various cultures find that mental
health depends on development not just of self-control, but of control of
Lagattuta and colleagues report their findings in the March/April issue of