I've spoken about lists before, particularly in an article over at Special-Ism and of course, I've talked about rules here on LWA before.
Today I want to talk about more general rules that you can use to help your kids get more out of life.
Life rules also need to be concise because even with repeated drilling, your kids aren't going to remember long and convoluted rules.
Finally, life rules need to be self-explanatory -- or at best, you need to constantly go over the definitions. For example, the life rule "Don't talk to Strangers" isn't very self-explanatory and it's a problematic rule for kids with Asperger's.
How do you determine who is a stranger? Why is it acceptable sometimes?
I can remember experiencing a whole lot of issues with the "don't talk to strangers" rule when I was a kid. I remember trying not to talk to strangers and having them get quite frustrated with me. This was particularly problematic when an elderly person would approach me in the street for directions or help. I'd often help them out, but would do so in complete silence.
Not all Life Rules are Good
It won't bite you if you don't annoy it.This was a terrible life rule from my childhood. We live in Australia where just about everything bites or stings you.
It certainly helps if you don't annoy animals but it doesn't guarantee safety. Over here we have sharks and stingers which few people actually try to annoy.
A good life rule should be about you and your behaviour, rather than a prediction of the behaviours of others.
It Costs Nothing to be NiceThis is my absolute favourite life-rule and it's probably the main piece of advice that I'm constantly reiterating with my kids. Essentially this rule is in place to remind my kids that being nice to people should be their "default state" even if the person they're interacting with is not nice.
Of course, there are still Grinches in the world and sometimes, though in my experience rarely, this backfires. I've found that angry people often back down if you're nice to them but some people are always angry - I'm still nice to them. It's a win-win situation.
There's nothing that riles up an angry person more than the idea that their angry attitude is having no effect. Smiling at an angry person will always affect them more than shouting back.
I've reminded my boys that people are generally more attracted to people who are smiling. Anyone thinking about a future partner is inclined to think, "he looks happy, that's what I want in my future".
It also means that occasionally shop-keepers will give you better service.
If you're not convinced that this works, try buying an ice cream whilst being angry to the server and one while you're being nice -- and compare the size of the ice creams.
Everybody is Different - and that's Great
I'm not saying "and that's okay", I'm saying that it's great.
For me, it's important that my boys don't shy away from the idea that people are different but that they also go further than simple acceptance.
I want them to think nothing of having friends who are different and openly approach a person with visible differences without fear or prejudice.
What a boring world it would be if everyone was the same.
Everyone should be treated Equally and FairlyThis life rule goes more or less together with the "everybody is different" rule. You'll notice that I haven't said "all men are equal" because that could lead to gender misunderstandings. I've also not said that everyone IS equal because we're talking about what should be which isn't necessarily what "is".
Finally, I've added the word "fairly" to the end because equal treatment isn't always fair treatment. For example, equal treatment would mean that a short-sighted person would get the same seat at an event as everyone else. Fair treatment would mean that they get a seat which gives them an "equal chance to see".
Smaller Everyday Rules
I could go on forever with these rules but I'm sure I've given you the general gist of the idea. I just wanted to touch on some of the smaller life rules that relate more to specific interactions.
Don't turn up anywhere empty-handed
If it's a planned visit, bring something; food, wine, flowers or some other small form of appreciation.
Remember that the host has usually gone to a lot of trouble to have you over and their job doesn't end when you leave, there's still the post-visit cleaning to be done. Make an effort to show them that you appreciate their "efforts".
Everyone is entitled to their Opinion and you can "Agree to Disagree"What a wonderful place Facebook would be if only people could follow this simple rule.
Of course your opinion matters but at the end of the day, life and friendships come first. It's not necessary for you to force others to your way of thinking. It's possible to disagree with someone and still be their friend. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree and then "drop the subject".
Of course, it's not always possible, particularly if you're disagreeing with something that restricts the freedoms of others but that's the price we pay for freedom of speech.
People with Asperger's thrive with lists and rules, so take the time to make a list of "life rules" and start instilling them while they're young.