The ‘Lord of the Flies’ School of Parenting: Don’t Sweat the Rules

Eli breaks the rulesMy oldest son wore four shirts and three knit caps to lunch today. Young Ben donned his winter jacket with the front zipper facing the wrong way.

Welcome to our “Lord of the Flies” brand of parenting.

My wife and I decided long ago that making our boys follow all the rules we’d like them to follow didn’t make sense. Yes, we’d prefer to leave the house with Eli sporting just a single hat and Ben wearing his winter jacket as the manufacturer suggested. Is it worth a battle royale to make it so, or can we work around the issue and let them embrace their inner rebel?

We choose B more times than not. That might sound like a series of surrenders, but there’s a method to our mad approach. We fight less with the boys and they, in turn, snap to it when we really, really need them to follow orders.

Here’s another example of being flexible with rules. For New Year’s Eve Eli wore his Power Rangers costume under a sophisticated sports jacket. He was the hit of the party, a conversation starter who helped us chat up new friends and old. Did I mention Eli had an Iron Man temporary tattoo on his face, too?

We do get the occasional funny look for abandoning our own rules. For starters, our methods fly in the face of our parents’ tactics.

Last summer we took the boys to an outdoor park complete with a train ride attraction. Eli was wearing his Batman costume when Mommylibrium took him to the park’s bathroom. She overheard a much older woman mutter her disapproval at Eli’s sartorial selection.

The woman wasn’t critiquing our son, just his parents.

Our rules optional method may not work for every parent. It’s also possible we’ll experience an unexpected fallout from our parenting in the years to come. I doubt it. Letting our sons dictate some of their choices gives them a sense of power and responsibility. For example, if Eli got overheated at lunch he’d have to consider how his choices led to his temperature spike.

We learned a variation of this method when our boys were much younger. We’d pick out two or three shirts and have them select the one they wanted to wear. It made getting them dressed less stressful and more fun.

Our rules-bending approach is suspended as the need demands. Eli never wears his more colorful clothing matchups to school, and if we’re going to a special event the boys are dressed accordingly. Period.

The rest of the time our sons may not look quite like the other kids, and we’re perfectly fine with that.


  1. says

    Totally makes sense to me and within certain parameters, “logical consequences” help children figure out how to make their own decisions about clothes, appropriate outfits, etc. I draw the line when my teen son wants to go out in the snow in basketball (nylon) shorts and a t-shirt, but at this point it’s far, far easier than it used to be because he’s done it a few times and realizes that, as the winter squirrels would say, freezing your nuts ain’t so much fun. 🙂

    Keep up the good work. And now I’ll know that you might just have a superhero outfit on underneath your own modest attire too!

    • Christian Toto says

      They’re called Underoos, and please don’t judge!

      Yes, the weather rules are ones we can’t disobey even when Eli begs to wear his shorts out in 32 degree weather….

  2. says

    Glad this works for you guys. That’s all that matters.
    My wife and I are generally like this as well. Funny enough – there are some things where she can be more flexible on and others where I am more flexible.

    • Christian Toto says

      You bring up a delicate – and great – point. It’s helpful to be roughly on the same page as your spouse in this regard. One lucky thing about my marriage is that my wife and I, while very different, fall mostly in the same camps when it comes to parenting and discipline. Here’s hoping that stays true as the boys get older!

  3. says

    As a teacher, I wasn’t feeling this until you said your kiddos are dressed appropriately for school. Now, I am just left feeling panicked at giving up control…”not in control, not in control, not in control…” I’ll stop spinning. Eventually.

  4. says

    You’ve really got to pick your battles, and I love the way you and your wife have chosen to do that.

    I find that I have to stop and remind myself (and my wife) a lot that some things our boys do just don’t really matter in the long run, and that it doesn’t help to get worked up for nothing.

    You want your name to be “Frankenstein”? Sure buddy. Go for it.

    • Christian Toto says

      Just remember to tell your son that the creature from the horror movies is officially Frankenstein’s Monster. Frankenstein is the mad scientist. Of course, maybe your kid has scientific aspirations!

      Yes, I think life itself is about picking battles!

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