Parenting Mantras

Values over Rules

While perusing information about setting rules for creative children, I stumbled acrosspencilsruler this video by Professor Adam Grant. In it, he describes three ways we can help raise creative children. “Values over Rules” are one of the items on his list. I kept reading that line over and over again. It makes sense in theory, but what does this look like when you are in the moment with your child. (Side note, Adam Grant has a cool looking book: Originals, How Non-Conformists Move The World. The audio book is downloading now….)

Let us first look at definitions to try and break this down to its simplest level. According to, a value is a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life while a rule is one of a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere. For example, kindness might be a value that you possess while a rule might be ‘always shake hands with strangers’.

The closest experience I have to this is from work. While I was a manager of a specific activity at work, I wanted to empower my team to complete a task their way using their own specific talents. However, I also wanted the end result of the project to work for the customer. Therefore, I gave them the guidelines for the project, what I called guiding principles. This included a set of standards for what I hoped to do with the end project vs what the end project needed to look like. For example, instead of giving the team a list of rules for how they had to document a system map, I gave them a list of guiding principles about what success for them looks like to me: success is being able to use what you produce to easily map a requirement to a specific process step and vice versa. I gave them the principle and they responded with a result that was usually more creative that I could have imagined.

I’m guessing this is going to be harder with my daughter. I know there will be rules, because like this article states, they are needed for safety and to prepare kiddos for the real world. On the other hand I know from previous reading that creativity and rules have a negative relationship. I have shared this study before, but it is relevant here as well. It suggests that creative adolescents have far fewer rules than their less creative counterparts. So what I am getting from all of this is some rules are good, but not too many. And instead of a bunch of rules, focus on values. Whaaaat? This is confusing and will probably take some practice to implement.

Here is where my head is at right now. My daughter is only 5.5 months so I have a bit of time to noodle on this with my husband. We can set the values for our family such as: kindness, creativity, support, honesty and fun. And we can also set age appropriate rules for health and safety such as: bedtime is always at x time to support healthy sleep patterns. But other than that, we won’t dictate how they should interpret and respond to their world (as long as they are safe). We will let them figure out what actions work for them and which ones don’t. If they are having a bad time with a certain activity, we can let them try and figure it out for themselves and encourage the hard work they are exerting.

I will be researching this topic more so I suspect more writing will happen on this topic. I would love to understand if anyone else has a point of view about values vs rules and how to actually implement this? If you have scenarios and examples – please post them in the comments! Thanks all!


Categories: Parenting Mantras

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