'Why do people break the law?'
Is there a way to explain to a child why some people don’t respect the country’s laws?
‘That man just went through a red robot,’ my 5-year-old son, Joah, exclaimed, as a taxi sped past us. At the last moment we had stopped and a few moments later he had not. ‘Perhaps he does not believe in God.’

‘There are lots of people, Jo, who believe in God but don’t always obey the law,’ I responded.

‘Oh, well then maybe that man just doesn’t know about Jacob Zuma,’ Joah continued, as he puzzled out why a driver would blatantly disobey the rules of the road.

‘Maybe. Although lots of people who know about Jacob Zuma, also don’t obey the law. Even some friends of Jacob Zuma, don’t obey the law,’ I replied.

‘Oh, well then maybe that man just doesn’t know about the police; that they will lock him up for doing that.’

I remember this from my childhood - that the authorities took on magnificent proportions, such that you couldn’t understand why anyone would possibly want to disobey the law, if they knew that policemen existed.

‘No, I’m sure that driver knows about the police, Jo, but even people who know about the police don’t necessarily obey the law.’

‘Like dad,’ Joah suggested helpfully. ‘When Annie was turning blue he drove through 5 red robots.’ At 18 months, our daughter Anna had a febrile convulsion. My husband thought she was dying and screeched his way through every red robot in town, to make sure she got to the hospital on time.

‘Oh, but Jo,’ I replied, ‘did you really think that dad was wrong to drive through all those red robots?’

‘Yes,’ he answered confidently.

‘Well, sometimes Jo, you realise that some things are more important than just obeying the law. Like it was more important to save Anna’s life than to stop at the red robots.

Joah was staring out the window, counting cars. I was milking a conversation that had died a few paragraphs ago. The pathways of his reasoning could not yet negotiate the
murky swamps, full of ‘sometimes’ and ‘maybes’ and ‘not always wrongs.’

‘But don’t worry Jo, that man,’ I concluded reassuringly, ‘was just being naughty.’

How do you explain the law and people who break it?

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