Making Exceptions to the Rule


Parents today are constantly being bombarded with articles and lectures about sleep, food, education, child psychology and development. Our children’s teachers have an opinion. Our mothers have an opinion. Our mother-in-laws have an opinion. Our friends have an opinion. Our neighbour’s brother’s doctor has an opinion. I admit, I share opinions all the time right here!

And along with the barrage of rights and wrongs, each one of these well-meaners also has an opinion about when “exceptions to the rule” are appropriate. Some examples of making exceptions to the rule are:

  • limiting your children’s screentime, without alienating them from society’s realities
  • offering your children whole foods but letting them eat the cake at their friend’s birthday party
  • getting them to bed by 7pm without being so strict as to limit family dinners, community gatherings or celebrations
  • insisting they wear warm clothes appropriate for the weather while at the same time respecting and encouraging their bodily autonomy
  • … you fill in the blanks!

It can be overwhelming as a parent just trying to mentally hold these juxtaposed ideas and opinions nevermind trying to live them in balance.

My children attend a school where parents and teachers are often on the same page and yet, even within these circles great contradictions arise. I’ve seen very well meaning teachers speak about the importance of daytime sleeps emphasizing that the ideal time for naps as no later than 12 noon, yet the very program they are leading ends at noon. In other instances I have observed Kindergarten teachers who strongly encourage lights out by 7 or 7:30pm consistently for early childhood and yet the class BBQ is arranged to start at 6 and end at 7:30pm (with the good intention of being inclusive to parents who work during the day).

This is in no way a judgement on the rule setters. As human beings we all try to strike a balance between ideals and reality.

But because of the overload of information we parents experience it’s increasingly harder to hear our own inner voice.

It is important for our children that we feel empowered enough to stand in our own truths and to honour what is really needed in any situation. Our children are under our guidance and we have the unique privilege of being able to truly tap into what they need at any given moment.

  • If they’ve had a big week and we know a Sunday dinner with extended family is going to be too much, it’s Okay to say “No, thank you. Next time.”
  • If they’re overtired and over-scheduled- courteously RSVP to the third birthday party invite in a row with a, “No thank you. Next time.”
  • If you know Grandma and Grandpa often offer treats when they visit but you also know your child has had enough sugar that day, set the boundary with Grandparents before they arrive

Don’t allow the good intentions and pulls from the outside world to spin you round and round. Don’t allow outside exceptions to the rule to always be your exceptions to the rule.

Remain open and receptive and then…

Connect with your values.

Connect with what your children likely need developmentally.

Connect with what your children need as unique individuals.

And make a decision that is right for you, your family and your child in that moment.

When you have made enough space in your daily life to be able to hear your inner voice and knowing you will make better decisions on behalf of your family and less decisions based on what you think you ought to do.


If you liked this post you can read more about the push and pull of mothering in my post The Parenting Middleway as well as For a Slow Summer Together, Say No.

Meagan Wilson is a parent educator and author of the now-retired seasonal series of Whole Family Rhythms. After finishing a BA, she went on to complete her Foundations in Steiner Education and Anthroposophy at Sydney Steiner College, as well as her Waldorf Early Childhood Certification at the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto. She has received her certification as a Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach and has supported hundreds of parents to create a strong family rhythm unique to their own values and culture. She has four young children. Meagan provides resources, support and information to parents who are looking for a bridge to cross between their unique family life and their children’s (often but not always) Waldorf schools.


  1. Shannon McMaster on October 23, 2019 at 12:51 am

    My biggest takeaway from this, beyond the immediate joy in the reminder, in fact, I do one what’s best for my child. More than that, I take away the reminder the power is in holding boundaries so we live our family values and therefore our child(ren) understand they are capable of standing In their truth as it is the norm to do so in this family. My daughter plays
    Sports and she should and love sand wants to, often I am questioned/coached on this by the idea she is too young for sport, yet I see it differently in the joy and sense of calm confidence that flows from her while challenging herself overcoming “fall downs” and learning through her small yet mighty determination to improve.

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