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You Can't Make Me!

June 18, 2011

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How do you get people to follow the rules once you put them in place?

Think about how society enforces rules, in general. Complexity of actual laws and legalese aside, most people follow the important laws without needing someone to breathe down their neck or monitor their every move. If you have many petty rules and every rule is enforced with a Big Brother mentality, then you're being too strict and need to rethink what really needs to be regulated and controlled. The big important rules, like it being against the law to hurt people, is the right kind of law. It's easy for most people to obey -- they have no desire whatsoever to hurt others, so the law simply makes sense to them, while it keeps a clear upper limit on the behaviors of the few with a short fuse who would infringe on the rights & safety of others.

In most cases where these fair laws or rules are violated is when either survival needs and one's own safety is not being protected, or when you feel like you are not respected, recognized, appreciated, or treated like a reasonable person. In the classic Fahrenheit 451 it's easy to want to horde books because not only is the rule itself potentially unreasonable, but because people are breathing down your neck about it. When the rules are reasonable and reasonably enforced, they're easier to stick to by people who want to be reasonable people. When you have a direct say in the creation of the rules, it makes even more sense to follow them.

So overall, I think the warm, respectful, even loving atmosphere you are creating is one of the biggest incentives for a better behaved system. Encouraging participation, open discussion, voting on issues, agreeing on rules and methods of discipline, pledging to change poor habits and behaviors, and forgiving past transgressions is creating a culture and atmosphere in your system that by its own nature discourages rule-breaking.

That said, there may be people who want to or need to test the rules to make sure they're enforceable. I'll write more about reenforcing boundaries and rules soon.

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