All families have rules. There comes a time in every person’s life when he or she breaks a rule. How we deal with infractions is essential. As parents we need to think about whether consequences are enforced and if we’re consistent.

The first portion of the Torah, Genesis, has much to teach us about rule breaking. One of the first things God tells Adam is not to eat from the tree of knowledge. Yet the first story about Adam and Eve together is a story about their breaking this rule. Rule breaking seems to be simply part of who we are, part of what it means to be human.

Each time we break a rule presents an opportunity. A parent can help a child transform a broken rule into an opportunity for taking responsibility. Besides setting appropriate consequences for actions, discussions can help this process. Talking about what children did wrong, why they did it, and if they are able to tell the truth about their actions are important discussions to have. Mutual understanding is a key to moral development. Parental discipline ultimately becomes self-discipline.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about Adam and Eve and their first rule. Discuss why they might have broken it.


  • Which rules are the hardest for you to keep? Why?
  • What do you think rules are for?
  • What can we learn about self-control to help us resist the temptation to break rules?
  • What do you do if you think a rule is unfair or needs changing?
  • What are the consequences of losing control and giving in to temptation?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.