My three rules are:
- Be honest
- Work hard
- Love others
There are a number of different types of rules to give children.
First, guidance or mission statement rules. Those should be direct, action oriented, simple and clear. You have my three.
Second, safety/practice rules. Don’t talk to strangers. Look both ways before you cross the street. Take your medication daily. These are obviously circumstance driven (if you don’t have medication you are taking, then you don’t need a rule about taking it; if you are diabetic, food rules are much more strict and important).
Third, procedural rules. We often don’t have enough of those. My wife bought our youngest daughter a book about the rules of friendship. Suzette Haden Elgin has pointed out a number of times that in talking, you should limit yourself to three sentences and then stop (there are two kinds of conversationalists, those who will break in at three sentences, those who expect you to stop at three sentences so they can speak if you want to. If you stop at three sentences you will make both types comfortable). They are all things you need to know.
Fourth, boundary rules. Don’t call your eight year old friends after 10:00 p.m. to invite them over to play. Only twelve hours a day on the computer. Don’t leave the house without your clothes on. Dress in a way that does not bear false witness by the messages the clothing communicates about the community you belong to.
Sometimes a rule crosses several realms. I’ve never drunk alcohol, but I’ve had relatives with serious problems. I’d advise my children to avoid alcohol as a boundary measure (the WoW is a marker of our community), as a safety issue (a genetic prediliction to alcoholism is a risk), etc.
Some times a rule changes meaning over time. If your culture has wine that is 2% alcohol and that you mix 4-1 with water (so that the final drink is 20% wine, or less than .4% alcohol) your risk from alcohol is much less than a society that has (a) much more wine and (b) wine that is 11% alcohol. You have to drink about ten or more drinks of the primative wine flavored water to get about the same alcohol as a modern glass of wine.
My post I linked to above had to do with how there are different sets of rules that have come with the gospel at different times. Ours are different from those of other times.
Why rules are significant, how they are significant and when we are “better” than the general society that needs to follow those rules so we don’t have to, that is a huge question.
After all, at 2:00 a.m. at an open intersection where you can see for miles in every direction, how complete of a stop you come to might be different than at 2:00 p.m. with a hedge blocking your view.
Anyway, this is the applied version of the same thoughts I had at http://mormonmatters.org/2010/05/17/sets-meta-sets-and-an-incomplete-world/