'Why I tell my daughter she can break rules, swear and her grades do not matter.'

My daughter is seven.

I taught my daughter that sometimes judgment is more valuable than rules, and that in such cases the rules should be broken. I read somewhere on Quora that a guy would never cross the street against the signal with his kids — until they hit eighteen. I think that’s horrible modelling. It says, “Actually, I was just faking that this thing is bad to do. Now that you’re an adult, I’ll stop faking.”

All adults break rules, and that is intelligent and right sometimes. The reason the signal at the crosswalk exists, as I taught my daughter, is to keep us safe. If there aren’t any damn cars in the entire vicinity, then the signal no longer serves a purpose. You use your judgment, and you cross the street instead of wasting moments of your life obeying a thing that’s for you anyway.

So, yeah. I teach her to judge and assess. I’m not going to pretend following rules is always necessary and then go, “Surprise, I was kidding!” when she turns eighteen.

I informed her that the great majority of adults lie to children on a regular basis. I explained that some of the lies are based on the notion that kids need protection from various issues, others are motivated by thinking it’s okay to lie as long as the lie is super fun (ie Santa), and yet others still are grounded in adults’ fear and confusion in discussing difficult topics with kids.

Alexandra Pell. (Image: Quora)

I let her know that this does not typically include malice, but that it's still important to be aware of.

Since I explained this in a way that was compassionate towards you big bunch of liars (oops -- grownups), she has not taken this in a "the world is out to get me" way. She's taken it in a "people are flawed, but they mean well" way.

When she wrote a list of her ten favourite things about me for Mother's Day a year ago, one of the items was, "Because she never lies to me." I hope that's one of the items she thinks of every Mother's Day for the rest of her life.

I told her that grades don't matter to me at all, just that she's learning. I explained that learning can include failure and that's just fine, because failure means you have figured out stuff about what not to do, and that schools are totally wrong to pretend like it's bad.

(Incidentally, she does wonderfully at school even though I have never tried to make that happen. Instead, I just, y'know, treat her like a person and do interesting stuff with her. Shockingly, teaching her how to make slides and use our microscopes is more educational than a bunch of neurotic-ass flash cards!)

I told her it's okay to curse around me, because they're just words. I explained why other adults will find it upsetting, but why I myself do not. I explained the contexts in which cursing is a very bad idea. Anyway, she never curses unless she is recounting to me what someone else said. She's chosen not to.

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I think you get the gist of my values. But now let me say this:

I'm not a careless person who just says, "Fuck it, whatever," about parenting. I have thought all these things through quite carefully. Very methodically. At much length.

And I'm not a jerk who refuses to nurture her. I love to read to her. I love to cuddle her. I may, from the above, sound like a cold bitch trying to prepare her for the streets or something. That simply isn't the case. We spend much time doing things like making craft Christmas ornaments while we giggle and act silly and make jokes about our apartment building being a boat, or whatever. I do treat her like a happy kid who needs the type of social interaction that a child needs.

Here is the entire list of what she wrote up for me on Mother's Day of 2015, with some spelling corrections from me:


1. Because she's fun.

2. Because she's interesting.

3. Because she's huggy.

4. Because she never ever lies to me.

5. She helps me a lot.

6. Because she takes me places.

7. Because she's really really nice.

8. Because she has a good attitude.

9. Because she loves me a lot.

10. Because she loves me and has a good attitude and does a lot for me. (Okay, heh, she was running out of ideas by then, but I won't cry myself to sleep over it.)

And this is the interior of the birthday card she made me last year. I think we can all agree -- whether we're left or right leaning, feminists or RedPill, religious or atheists, people who want the toilet paper roll over or under -- that the amount of stickers a child generously donates to you = the level of regard they have for you.

Image: supplied.

This post originally appeared on Quora and has been republished here with full permission.