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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Jade Sheen, Associate Professor, School of Psychology, Deakin University

Curious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to You might also like the podcast Imagine This, a co-production between ABC KIDS listen and The Conversation, based on Curious Kids.

Why can’t we do whatever we want? – Flynn, aged 6.

Thanks, Flynn. That’s a really good question. When you are younger you can feel like all the rules around you are unfair. You may also feel like you don’t get much say in things. Doing whatever you want seems like a great idea!

You might wonder, what is the point of all these boring rules? Usually, Flynn, rules help us with two things: learning and staying safe.

Read more: Curious Kids: Why do adults think video games are bad?

Kids should make some decisions – but not all

Let’s think about learning. When you are six, you are learning new things every day. I’m sure that if you think back to only a year ago you will realise how much you have changed! Many of those annoying rules that you worry about are there to help you to focus on learning and playing and having fun.

Without rules, you would have a lot of decisions to make every day. Too many decisions would get in the way of your learning and make you feel overloaded. Being in charge of a lot of decisions can sometimes be quite stressful and can sometimes make people feel worried and anxious. This is why it’s important to allow kids to make some decisions – but not all of them.

I also mentioned safety. While I am sure that you are very smart, there are a lot of things you don’t know about the world yet. These are the things that you will learn from now until you are a grown up, like how to drive a car, who to trust and how to spend your money wisely.

Until you know all these things, the rules are there to keep you safe. The rules make sure people always know where you are, that you won’t get hurt and that you get what you need to be happy and healthy in life.

We’ve all been there. Flickr/Chirag Rathod, CC BY

Your parents can relax the rules a little as you grow

You may not know this yet, but the rules will also change as you get older. Think about the differences between now and when you were a toddler.

At six, you probably have a later bedtime, are allowed to watch more TV and do different things and have a lot more of your own friends.

This is because it is important to encourage children to take on more decisions as they get older.

Think of it like a ladder. You might not be at the top right now, but each new thing you learn takes you a step closer and means your parents can relax the rules a little.

Finally, I should say that the rules don’t go away completely even when you are a grown up. Grown ups still have to work and pay bills and follow the rules. Even we can’t do whatever we want!

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