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rules

Hello everybody, welcome to episode 101 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino.

How’s everyone’s episode 100 hangover doing? I had a lot of fun with 100 – it was so nice to get perspectives from everyone! It was awesome to have you all involved, so for those who contributed, thank you again. And for those who listened, thank you again. We’re now en route to 200 episodes, though. And our first stop is today’s question about how to efficiently set rules which I think is an awesome question that I’m particularly excited to answer. We’ll get to the bottom of setting rules the right way, and how it’s been exemplified by different countries. Without further ado, here’s today’s question.

QUESTION: “I manage a team of employees at work and a team of three adorable kids at home. All in all, a lot of my time is spent making RULES. No one has died yet, but I still stress over making the right rules at the right times. Much of what I’ve been taught from superiors and older relatives is to keep rules a little on the strict side, but is this always the right thing to do? Do you know if this depends based on age groups, settings or anything else? Would love to get your perspective on how to set the rules.”


Listen to Greg narrate this post on Episode 101 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.


Culture and Setting Rules

All right, I’m glad to know that no one has died yet. That’s stupendous; clearly you’re doing something right. I could see how you’re maybe tempted to loosen the rules a little bit – you seem like fun. It’s a good question. It’s a really good question. As I alluded to in the intro, I think it’s a microcosm of what societies have been asking themselves since the beginning of time, so let’s start there and work with that.

Cultural psychologists often define different countries as having tight or loose cultures. This basically pertains to how strict the rules are on a country by country basis and of course, a big part of the reason they research this is to see what strengths and weaknesses come with having more or less restrictions.

Individual Liberties

As you can imagine, looser leaning cultures can be found in countries like Brazil, Australia, New Zealand. These are countries that are often run on individual liberties and a strong advocacy for freedom and self-expression. Simply put, the rules are looser and citizens have a lot of privilege to make their own choices. The general result is a very laid back lifestyle, a lot of celebration, and a warm welcoming to others.

Rules and More Conformity

Tighter leaning cultures, on the other hand, have a lot of rules and a more uniform lifestyle. Places like South Korea and the middle east, maybe Pakistan. I’d think that Germany and Russia might fall into this category as well. Countries like these are known for being very regimented, and though the general aura may not be as laid back, these countries are very good at efficiency and executing changes they believe are important because they have more structure.

Objectives and Setting Rules

It should go without saying, however, that all of these countries vary between what specifically they’re setting rules for and how those things change over time. I’ll get back to that, but the way I see this translating for you is that the rules you set should depend on the different objectives of different facets of life.

So when it comes to making the rules for your kiddos, you first need to decide which areas of their lives you feel are important for expression and experiences, and which areas of their lives are important for getting things done.

Your Kids and Fun Experiences

I’m not parenting your children, but for example, I’d think that looser rules would be appropriate when it comes to their time with friends, time when they’re doing art projects, or time when the siblings are teaching things to one another. These are all scenarios in which the kids are indulging in experiences that help them build character, confidence and creativity.

If your kids are doing artwork, you probably wouldn’t make them only color with crayons as opposed to markers because it would just stifle their creativity and there’s really no benefit in restricting that, with the exception of maybe a few marker spots on the walls. Big deal.

Unless it pertains to their safety, putting restriction on these types of things really only prevents them from getting in touch with who they are, building morale and building good emotional health.

Your Kids and Practical Experiences

However, when it comes to things like homework, cleaning up, or bedtime, stricter rules make a bit more sense because it’s more crucial that those things get done for their health and well-being rather than forgotten about. They’re not necessarily indulgent experiences, but they’re necessary for the long term.

A strict rule around bedtime is good so they can get the rest they need and be prepared for the next day. Concentrated homework or clean up time without distractions is good so they learn to be responsible for contributing to others.

Unless you make rules unique to certain situations based on the outcome you desire, a generally loose set of rules over everything leads to a lot of day to day happiness until you realize that necessary things aren’t getting done. And naturally, a generally tight set of rules leads to a daily lack of enthusiasm, but the accomplishing of important goals. There needs to be both, and how that “both” exists depends on the value you place on that which you make rules for.

Rules Evolve Over Time

As for how your rules evolve over time (which they should), let’s look at good ole’ America as an example.

Though many Americans might not believe it for one reason or another, America is objectively a very loose culture. The various types of freedoms here are almost unrivaled compared to the rest of the world, which is why many countries – especially war-torn countries – don’t bat an eyelash at the things we find ourselves outraged over. The reason we are so free, however, is the same reason that we always find ourselves in outrage. The freer things are, the more different interpretations of threat are easy to perceive, and the more of a demand there is for reform, or neutralization.

Neutralization is a good thing, and threats give us the motivation to make it so. Loose cultures need to neutralize into more rules sometimes so important things can get done, and tight cultures need to neutralize into less rules sometimes so people have more satisfaction in their lives.

Setting Rules: Conclusion

So for you, if you remain keen on accurately (emphasis on actually) perceiving threats, you alter your rules accordingly.

If you’re very loose with your kids on their diet because you think eating should be fun, that’s fine. But the looser you are, the higher of a chance they have in eating junk food, missing out on proper nutrients and having less energy. So all of a sudden, it’s become so loose that a threat is perceived, and it’s up to you to restrict that rule a bit more so your kids can ultimately benefit.

If you’re setting different rules according to the different outcomes you want for your kids or your team at work, that’s awesome. If you’re regularly paying attention to whether or not your rules are yielding the results you want, that’s also awesome. Decide what you want for the people in your life that you manage, make the rules unique to each situation, and be willing to budge on them one way or another when necessary.

——

Asker, thank you so much for sending this question in. I know I spent like half the time teaching a lesson, but I wouldn’t have done so if I didn’t think it was directly applicable to you.

If it wasn’t and you still have questions, you know where to find me. You all know where to find me. Our email is advice AT oldpodcast DOT com

Email us your questions there and we’ll get them answered for you on the show to the best of our ability.

Thanks for being here today, everyone. i had fun and I hope you did, too. I’ll look forward to talking to you next time. Take care.


Listen to Greg narrate this post on Episode 101 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.


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Greg Audino

Greg Audino is a Rhode Island-born certified life coach, actor, and graduate of Goucher College. He is the host of the mental health podcast Optimal Living Advice and narrates dating, marriage, and parenting content over at Optimal Relationships Daily.
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