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Beyond Rules to Guidelines

by Dan Gartrell
July/August 2010
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Article Link: http://www.exchangepress.com/article/beyond-rules-to-guidelines/5019452/

This article guides teachers about how and why to use guidelines in the adult-child community. Why go beyond rules to guidelines? Think about the differences in these two settings:

• One setting has the rule: “No hitting.” Another has the guideline: “Friendly touches only.”

• One setting has the rule: “No running inside.” Another has the guideline: “We walk except at
special times.”

The problem with rules

Rules are not helpful in the adult-child community. They are usually stated in the negative: “No,” “Don’t,” etc. The way they are worded, adults seem to expect children to break them (Wien, 2004). Even when they are not totally negative, like “Be nice to your friends,” rules have an or else moral implication that adults carry around in their heads. When enforced, children may be aware that they have done something wrong, but the negative wording of rules does not teach them what to do instead. While busy enforcing the rules, the adult easily forgets to do this vital teaching.

Adults who work with young children often have grown up in settings where rules were the routine. The use of rules was taken for granted. It is important for adults to get intentional about the effects of rules, ...

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