When Rules Are Broken

Bereshit: A resource for families.

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Reprinted with permission from Torah Topics for Today.

All families have rules. There comes a time in every person’s life when he or she breaks a rule. How we deal with infractions is essential. As parents we need to think about whether consequences are enforced and if we're consistent.  

The first portion of the Torah, Genesis, has much to teach us about rule breaking. One of the first things God tells Adam is not to eat from the tree of knowledge. Yet the first story about Adam and Eve together is a story about their breaking this rule. Rule breaking seems to be simply part of who we are, part of what it means to be human.
forbidden fruit
Each time we break a rule presents an opportunity. A parent can help a child transform a broken rule into an opportunity for taking responsibility. Besides setting appropriate consequences for actions, discussions can help this process. Talking about what the child did wrong, why they did it, and if they are able to tell the truth about their actions are important discussions to have. Mutual understanding is a key to moral development. Parental discipline ultimately becomes self-discipline.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS
about Adam and Eve and their first rule. Discuss why they might have broken it.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:
·    Which rules are the hardest for you to keep? Why?
·    What do you think rules are for?
·    What can we learn about self-control to help us resist the temptation to break rules?
·    What do you do if you think a rule is unfair or needs changing?
·    What are the consequences of losing control and giving in to temptation?

© Copyright 2010 Joyce and Fred Claar

Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Dianne Cohler-Esses is the first Syrian Jewish woman to be ordained as a rabbi. She was ordained in 1995 at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is currently a freelance educator and writer, teaching and writing about a wide range of Jewish subjects. She lives in New York City with her journalist husband and their three children.