Teaching Your Child to Break the Rules

In general, my kids are fairly good about following rules.
(Well, not really my rules, but your basic run-of-the-mill rules.)
Both of the big kids tend to get upset when they are even slightly chastised by a teacher.
(Once again, not so much when I chastise them, but you get the point.)

A few weeks into school, Lydia started having potty issues.
My child who potty trained easily and early.
The one who very rarely had accidents.
She would go down for nap time
And then empty the entire contents of her bladder while lying there wide awake on her cot.
And I do mean every single drop.
(The teacher had to move furniture and bring in the big mop and bucket.)

This happened several times within a matter of a few weeks.
I was baffled.

We asked her what was wrong.
We tried making her go potty at every available moment.
Her teacher was so wonderful about helping us figure out what the problem was.

In the end, we figured out that she was afraid to speak up.
They are told not to get up or talk during nap.
So, in her mind, she wasn’t even allowed to get up and ask to go potty.
Both her teacher and I tried over and over again to point out that if you need to go potty,
then you can get up and you can talk to the teacher!

We went over and over this until it finally sunk in.

Or so we thought.

{Fast-forward to today.}

Nap time is very near the end of school.
They have naps, then snacks and then pack up for home.

It was after they packed up and the bus riders left the room that the teacher noticed this:

“Lydia!  What happened to your face, babe?
Are those bug bites or what?
Come let me take a look at that.”

She crawled up into Mrs. H’s lap as Mrs. H investigated the mystery splotches.
Lydia confessed that Matthew* had pinched her multiple times during naptime.
(And obviously he pinched her pretty damn hard.)

(As a side note, Mrs. H felt horrible that she didn’t see it earlier
And that she didn’t have the opportunity to discuss it with Matthew, who was already on the bus.)

I feel so bad for my sweet girl.
She just lay there, getting the fool pinched out of her face without making a noise.
She didn’t get up.
She didn’t tell her teacher.
She didn’t even tell Matthew to stop.

My little rule follower.
My poor little rule follower.

It’s so hard to explain to her that there are exceptions to every rule.
When is it ok to break the rules?
When is is not ok to break the rules?

I think(at least I hope) we’ve covered all our bases for during naptime.
You must rest quietly unless you have to potty…
Or someone is hurting you in anyway…
Or if there is an emergency.

But I can’t come up with every scenario for every rule and go over it with her.
I can’t say that it’s never ok to go outside without telling me unless the house is on fire…
Or there is a stranger in the house…
Or something happens to Mommy and she needs help…

I cannot possibly imagine all the rules and all the exceptions to all the rules.
I cannot possibly even begin to explain all of this to her.
So how do I do it?
How do I teach my child when it’s ok to break the rules?
Somebody help me-
Before something worse than a few pinches on the face happens
And she silently lays there, following the rules.

*Not his real name

19 Responses to Teaching Your Child to Break the Rules
  1. Monica
    October 22, 2010 | 10:30 pm

    oh wow. first of all…i’d be wanting to sock it to *matthew* for doing that to her. good grief!

    and yeah, it’s hard to anticipate all the special circumstances. just do your best to cover the bases as they come up and make sure she knows she can ask for clarification along the way. poor sweet thing!

  2. Lauren
    October 22, 2010 | 10:35 pm

    Poor thing. I hate this happened to her. She is very much a rule follower and so quiet. i tried to talk to her the day I was in there and the only thing she said to me all day we her brother names and she was having a baby sister and then she wouldn’t even look at me.
    This happened to my oldest in K. They weren’t allowed to talk at lunch and a kid took her food and she didn’t get to eat but didn’t say anything because you weren’t supposed to talk.

    it’s a hard line to draw!!! Good luck to Lydia

  3. Liz Sanders
    October 22, 2010 | 10:42 pm

    Oh bless her heart! I am just in tears reading about…and looking at her poor pinched cheek!
    It is so so hard to know how many scenarios to play through for them so that they know what to do. Peyton had a similar thing happen to him in kindergarten where he let a boy beat him up cause he was told no fighting, so he didn’t even defend himself. He also wouldn’t use the bathroom at school and cry with a tummy ache/bladder ache all the way home.
    I think you covered the basis, and really that’s all we know to do because sometimes covering too much can be confusing.
    Times to speak up
    Emergency- yes
    Potty- yes
    Someone hurting you- yes
    I wonder too if there is anything else.
    i hope she is okay, and that you are too.
    If you figure out this parenting dilemma, let me know!

  4. Chibi Jeebs
    October 22, 2010 | 10:42 pm

    Oh, her poor little face! Breaks my heart. :*( No advice, just love and hugs. xoxo

  5. Rachael Mercer
    October 22, 2010 | 10:47 pm

    Okay…this makes me mad FOR her…..

    First, I would let her know that any time someone is hurting her, it is OKAY to break the rules….if she learns this early it could go a long way in preventing OTHER things down the road.

    Second, begin teaching her to listen to that little voice inside her. I know she knew it wasn’t a good thing for *Matthew to pinch the crap out of her face. Reassure her that you and Daddy and Mrs. H won’t be upset with her for listening to that feeling inside that tells her something’s not right about her situation.

    Now, don’t know much about getting her to tell the teacher she’s got to go potty…..

    And, as she gets older she’ll begin to reason some of this out on her own, BUT, teaching her that it’s okay to take care of herself AND to listen to what feels right (not necessarily good), can go a long way too…..

    By what’s right but not necessarily good, I mean….it’s RIGHT to speak up about someone pinching her. Although it might feel good to have a conversation with *Matthew or some other kid, it’s not RIGHT. (not when the rules say no)….

    she’ll get it. but give her many kisses, and give *Matthew’s momma the stink eye on Monday.

  6. Tara
    October 22, 2010 | 11:28 pm

    Oh God, my heart breaks for her and for you! I wish I had to perfect answer to give you!

  7. Lea Krueger
    October 23, 2010 | 9:00 am

    So sorry to hear about this!!! It would be hard for me to take as a parent; it would also be hard for me to take if I were her teacher–I would feel so bad. It is just a hard situation! Maybe there is a suitable children’s book “out there” that tells a story about when it is o.k. to break the rules/speak up for yourself/protect yourself. Also, kids are so very “black and white” at this age, so hopefully she will grow out of it. Maybe y’all could talk about “choosing to do the right thing” instead of “following the rules.” Sometimes the “right thing” is more important than the rules. Of course, I wouldn’t want her to feel guilty if she doesn’t always choose correctly.

  8. Alaina
    October 23, 2010 | 10:27 am

    I agree with Rachel. Teach her about intuition and trusting herself (in kid-friendly words of course) and that the safety of herself and others is more important than rules in some cases. Maybe even tell her about some situations where you broke the rules for a good reason. I wouldn’t fret too much about it though, because as she gets older she will learn how to do this automatically. This is what my mom did to help me through this phase, because I was a little rule follower too 🙂

  9. Angie
    October 23, 2010 | 4:19 pm

    Poor thing! I talked to Becca about this after I read your blog, because I can see her doing the same thing. We decided that we both weren’t that tough, and we would have cried or screamed after the first pinch, so the teacher would have known! I’m so sorry that happened.

  10. punkinmama
    October 23, 2010 | 6:49 pm

    Oh Bridget, that breaks my heart!

    I agree with Rachel above. It’s time to teach her that it is *never* okay for someone to hurt you – no matter what the other rules are. And agree too about the voice in her head – start having her listen to it. You can’t go through every scenario with her, but maybe you could spend some time with different situations and ask her what the right thing to do would be, just to get her started thinking about what is okay and what is not.

  11. punkinmama
    October 23, 2010 | 6:52 pm

    Oh, also? I hope “Matthew” gets a severe talking to on Monday by the teacher and that she tells “Matthew’s” mother/father what happened! That is unacceptable! (And just how close are they during naptime? I’m glad Punkin’s school has them separated around the room! For one, he doesn’t sleep, so he’d keep everyone else awake if they were right next to him!)

  12. Adrian
    October 24, 2010 | 2:31 pm

    Hey. I usually just lurk on your blog, but I feel compelled to speak out. My thoughts were along the lines of Lea’s. I think that someone who is so respectful of the rules needs to be taught earlier about principles. The person who tries so hard to do the right thing needs to be guided by principles rather than rules so she can exercise her judgment. I don’t know if that is something you can learn when you’re a kid or only when you’re an adult, but Lydia’s concern for the right thing can be used to do great things — like working for the greater good and being loyal to family and community. Principles can give one great comfort when making difficult decisions, and you are probably the right person to teach her principles.

  13. Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith
    October 24, 2010 | 9:22 pm

    Oh Bridget, I started crying when I saw your sweet little girl’s face. Oh My God, my heart goes out to her. #1- No one should touch you (her)in an inappropriate way. If they do, run do not walk to the teacher.

  14. designHer Momma
    October 24, 2010 | 11:26 pm

    this just breaks my heart, and I’m so sorry that this has happened to her. You’ve gotten lots of good advice here. Oh, just love on her lots! (and make sure that kid gets a good talking to.) ugh.

  15. Tim
    October 25, 2010 | 12:26 am

    Your poor dear daughter. I would have had a fit about it. I picked up Darren from daycare and he had been bit. I could have throttled the kid and the teacher.

    Personally, I think I’m just going to teach him to hit back. It may not be PC, but other kids won’t mess with him. Maybe we can put your darling into karate, and turn her into a ninja!!! Fear The Pigtails!!!

    Still, I’m so sorry that this happened to her.


  16. Pops
    October 25, 2010 | 1:51 am

    1. Make sure *Matthew’s* parents know what he did.
    2. Tell her to scream if someone touches her in a harmful way.
    3. tell her if he does it again to knock the crap out of him.
    4. Tell her I love her.
    5. Kiss her cheek and tell her it is from me and it will get all better.
    6. Tell Ms. H that I told you to tell her to do this if it happens again.

  17. domestic extraordinaire
    October 25, 2010 | 2:19 pm

    Gah, crying buckets for your little girl here.


    I agree with Pops, I also agree with the commenter who said for her to listen to her little voice.

    Maybe see if the teacher can move her cot closer to where she is during nap time so that if she has an issue she won’t feel like she is disrupting the class.

    (((Hugs))) some more.

  18. Gramama
    October 25, 2010 | 8:48 pm

    Still crying………..so sorry this happened to the most precious little girl. I will give her lots of hugs when I see her!