MomTalk Talks Pet Peeves: Rule-Breaking Parents

In the last installment of our write/respond series, the newest member of the panel, the very brave Paul Simpson, vents about parents who don't follow the rules.

But... before we get to the complaining, we'd like to say a fond farewell to outgoing Patch Mama, Jillian Sallee. As a teacher, day care provider and involved mother of three, Jillian has decided to simplify a bit and step down from the MomTalk panel. We will miss her, but hope to hear from her in the comments every week.

If YOU would like to join our merry band of parents, please let us know! We have a spot available for you!

And now, let the therapeutic venting begin!

Paul Simpson

Pet Peeve: When Parents Ignore the Rules

Kids face a number of changes when they head back to school after their carefree days of summer.  Earlier bed times, less free time, and the torment of homework all enter their lives again.  Another major adjustment is learning and following new rules set by parents, school administrators, and teachers.  I’m a stickler for rules, and I believe it’s my duty to set an example for my kids when we’re expected to follow rules, especially in matters of civility.  If there’s a code of conduct—whether legal, posted, or implied—I follow it.  I don’t text and drive, I’ll keep off the grass if a sign tells me to do so, and I don’t put my feet on the back of a chair at the movie theater. 

So, being the nerdy, goody-two-shoes that I am, I sometimes find myself irrationally infuriated when I see parents not following the rules.  My head almost exploded once when I watched a mom with kid in tow exit Toys R’ Us.  She made her way to her illegally parked SUV (took up two handicapped parking spaces), didn’t return her shopping cart after placing her bags in the back of her car, and tossed a Nantucket Nectars bottle cap out the window as she sped away.  None of these discretions really impacted me, but they bothered me nonetheless.

I am especially irked when parents don’t set a good example when it comes to school-related rules.  As parents, we expect our kids to follow the school’s rules, but I see parents breaking school rules in front of their kids all the time.  If the school has a policy in place, there’s a reason for it.  We may disagree with some procedures, but simply not adhering to them isn’t the correct response.  Here are some examples of rule-breaking I often see, how your kids may interpret your not following the rules, and a possible solution to avoid rule-breaking in the future.

School Drop-Off, Pick-up and Parking Procedures

Each school has very specific procedures in place for drop-off, pick-up, and parking.  Contrary to popular belief, these guidelines weren’t devised to inconvenience you or force you to walk more than a hundred yards to pick up your kids.  These procedures and policies are designed to safely get kids to and from school each day.

What it says to your kids: Lines, schmlines.  I don’t need to wait for anything.

Solution: Know and follow the procedures, and park only where you’re allowed. I don’t think any parents ignore these procedures to make kids’ commutes to and from school more dangerous.  I think poor time management is at the heart of it.  If you find yourself driving up to school in a cloud of dust with your tires squealing every day or pull up on a curb in the fire lane so you don’t have to walk more than you deem reasonable, leave a few minutes earlier. 

Talking During School Meetings, Assemblies, and Performances

Hey, guess what?  When the person in charge is asking for quiet, they’re not just talking to the kids.  No one who brings their kid’s grandparents to watch their proud Kindergartener sign “See Me Beautiful” at the end-of-year assembly cares about your weekend plans to clean out your basement or the yummy crock pot recipe you found on Pinterest.

What it says to your kids: Whatever I have to say is more important than what anyone else has to say.  I don’t need to sit quietly while my teacher reads a story to the class because I need to tell Timmy how I finally beat Super Mario Bros.

Solution: Simple.  Shut up.  If you can’t be quiet for the duration of a program, have taken all the photos you want, or you’ve already heard the information being discussed during a meeting, leave the room or go home. 

Supervise Your Kids at School Events

Kids are supposed to follow the school’s rules whenever they are on school grounds or at a school-sponsored event held elsewhere.  However, school personnel aren’t in charge of supervising your kids before or after school hours.  That means if your kid is cracking another kid over the head with his light saber at the Halloween party, it’s your job to stop it.  I’ve had to correct my cherub’s behavior many times as he played with his friends in the playground after school due to his, um, poor choices.  I’m sure many people think I’m a bit of a tyrant.  Yet, I’d rather be the guy screaming  at his kid to stop throwing rocks straight up in the air on a crowded playground to “see where they land”, than the parent standing idly by while their kid tips over and dismantles the preschoolers’ play equipment. 

What it says to your kids: As long as my parents are here with me at school, I can do whatever I want.

Solution: You can’t enforce school rules if you don’t know the expected behaviors, so find out from the teachers or principal.  All schools should have a set of written rules/unacceptable behaviors (and consequences) available.   You also have to remember that what may be okay at your home may be unacceptable at school.

So, that’s a parent’s back-to-school primer on how to follow school rules, and why you need to do it for your kids.  For further reading on how to practice civility, check out P.M. Forni’s Choosing Civility:The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct.

In closing, I’d like to add that I am by no means perfect.  I’m sure I do a lot of things that drive other parents crazy (the aforementioned yelling in the playground, going overboard on putting safety before fun on scout hikes, etc.).  Share some of your own pet peeves regarding school-related etiquette and help contribute to a more civil school environment.   


Some thoughts from resident rule-breaker, Tasha Schlake Festel:

Like Paul, I am a stickler for school rules. I agree that they are there for a reason and it royally pisses me off when people don’t follow them, especially when their kids are watching. I hate it when people think they are above the rules, assuming that they are meant for “other people.”

I was going to wax poetic about the protection provided by rules in our society and the importance of following them. But too many of you know me. I would be outed as a hypocrite. So in the interest of full disclosure: There are some rules I do not follow.

Here are the three big ones:

  • I bring beer across state lines. Yeah, that’s right. Yuengling. At least a case. Every time I go home to Pennsylvania.
  • And you know what else I do? I let my kids use sparklers on July 4th, even though they’re too dangerous to use in Massachusetts.
  • That’s not even the worst of it. Sometimes I park my car facing the wrong way on my parents’ quiet neighborhood street.

I know, I know. I am a rebel. But honestly, some rules are dumb.

However, I will strictly follow the rules I think are worthwhile and have true value. I am a dork in that way. (OK, in many other ways too, but we’ll just stick to the rules this week.) I also teach my children to follow rules of school, civility and respect, like Paul.

What I won't teach my kids as they get older is to follow the rules simply because they're rules. I'll teach my kids to learn the rules, think about them and their intent, and follow them when appropriate. Blindly following rules can be dangerous. Clearly context and maturity are key in interpreting rules, but I will teach my children to question "the man" and rebel when appropriate.

Good doobie, Regina Martine, has her say:

I am pretty good at following The Rules myself … most of the time. I have broken many a rule in my day, but that has nothing to do with my life now, as a parent. I did take my kids swimming at Breakheart when there were no lifeguards and the beach was technically closed, but I didn’t see the “beach closed” sign until we were leaving and two of the Patch Mamas and their kids were with me … does that count?

Rules exist for a reason. I don’t think I follow the rules just because it is The Right Thing To Do, but because I feel that everyone has to behave the way they would want others to behave. The loud movie theater talkers and airport line cutters of the world get pretty steamed when someone else breaks the rules. We all have to live together. I want my kids to understand that the rules their school, their teacher, or the beach might have are usually about safety and ensuring that everyone can enjoy the experience, not about restricting one person’s fun.

I don’t drive too fast, I don’t park in the handicapped spot, I don’t cut the line, and I don’t have more than 12 items in the express lane. I don’t want my kids to think that rules are for other people and they can do whatever they want.  I would like to believe that the scofflaw parents of the world are not actively choosing to teach their kids that rules don’t matter, but I am probably being too kind.

And better last than missing, Melissa Schools:

When I read your post, Paul, my inner, rigid goody-goody rejoiced with every word… until the part where you suggest that those with time management issues essentially get a grip. Then I felt sheepish. I have been late for so, so much in my life and am only recently doing effective battle against this bad habit to change it. My conduct suggests that arriving within a few minutes of an event’s start time is considered “on time,” and arriving even five minutes before the start is considered “early.” My poor husband disagrees.

Too long have I accepted others’ excuses for me- meant to make me feel better- that I am late because of the number of kids I have. The fact is, I was late for and with everything even before marriage and kids. I also happen to have a sister with more kids than I have who works hard to be organized, uncluttered, orderly and, yes, punctual. I read somewhere (Who am I kidding? All my information these days comes from Facebook or Google. Since it was a “saying,” my bet is on Facebook, but I had to re-find it on Google.):

If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.”

I linked to two articles above. They are the kind of kick in the pants I am trying to give myself these days to stop making excuses and to start getting on with the kind of happy life I want for myself and my family. I fail lots and lots, still, but I’m determined. Feeling guilty after reading Paul’s article spurred me to be on time for both school drop off AND school pick up. Go me! Allowing way more time to get to school than I thought was reasonable was just about right for achieving my target arrival time. There was also a surprising lack of shrieking on my part before school. Ah, time management, I love you!

So, my response so far has little to do with breaking rules. Being late has never, ever bled into justification of using a handicapped parking spot, for instance. I have, however, forced kindness from friends in asking them to pick up or hang with my little darlings while I raced to school from farther away than I had any business being at the time. (Rule/law breaking confession: I speed.)

This does tie into Paul’s point about rules usually being about safety or consideration for others. Like Paul, I consider myself to be a stickler for rules: if you are waiting at a crosswalk, I happily yield to you, unless you are attempting to cross against the light. And if you are trying to cross outside a crosswalk? Well, then, you are outta luck, pal. Out. Of. Luck. Walk your lazy rule-breaking self to a crosswalk ten feet over and we’ll do business, thankyouverymuch!

Consideration for others is something I like to think I possess in spades. This week’s topic has widened my perspective to show me that I am guilty of taking this whole “It Takes A Village” thing for granted in the way I fail to allow enough of a buffer zone of time for unexpected obstacles and then expect others to excuse me or pick up the slack.

So, my friends, I’ll continue to work on my time management to show more consideration for the time and efforts of others. Just as soon as I submit this response- which is, er, late- to my editor. Sigh.

Melissa Schools September 06, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Case in point, Paul, today at school pick up, the circle behind the Walton school is teaming with parents, little kids & pets when some "grown up" comes tooling up in his suv, parting people with his vehicle, circles around & parks in front of a fire hydrant. Poor principal looked equal parts stressed/scared & murderous when she raced out to inform the driver of safety/pick up procedures. The guy appeared to be a grandparent, maybe doing a favor for his son or daughter, but sheesh!!
Tasha Schlake Festel September 07, 2012 at 12:54 AM
In the beginning of the year, I'm OK with people breaking rules, mostly because they probably don't know them yet. But when they do it because it's "too cold" or "too rainy" then I'm pissed off. That's when I start slashing tires and keying cars.
Tasha Schlake Festel September 07, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Obviously I'm joking. I don't slash tires or key cars. I smash windows. Sheesh.
Diane Lee September 20, 2012 at 12:38 PM
thought of this article yesterday when I saw a person walk up to a drive through ATM machine that states NO WALKING. and what would have happened if you got hit by a car and you sue that person because you didn't want to follow the rule. Should have went into the bank to use the ATM.


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