Can children’s rule-following be classified according to the type of rule?

National Public Radio reports on the rule-following behaviors of children:

Larry Nucci, a research psychologist at the Institute of Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley, [states] that if you look closely at which rules children obey and which they reject, there are clear patterns to be found.

“Kids don’t just resist parents across the board,” Nucci says. “It isn’t the situation where kids are just driven by their impulses, and they simply reject all the rules that parents have.”

Instead, Nucci argues, rules can be broken down into four distinct categories.

There are moral rules: Don’t hit, do share. There are safety rules: Don’t cross the street alone, don’t run with scissors. There are rules of social convention: You must say “sir” and “madam.”

“And then there is this fourth category, which has to do with what children consider to be their own business and that they consider to be private,” says Nucci. “Friendships, playmates, who they want to play with, who they want to be around. Some leisure time activities like what sport they want to do or toys they want to play with. And some ways in which you express yourself through your appearance — clothing, for example.”

And it is this fourth category, Nucci argues, in which the vast majority of conflicts between parents and children occur.

“Kids don’t argue at all with parents — or very little argument with parents — when parents come up with reasonable safety rules or rules about not stealing from other children or not hitting other kids,” says Nucci. “Virtually all of the conflicts that parents are having with kids are over these personal areas.”


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