As it is always my motivation, I hope most sincerely that this column has the capacity to influence positive action, as it broadens the content of my Jan. 15 column “The student, the school, the parent and the church – how they can connect.”
The reader will recall that it addressed the ill-behaved conduct of children observed by teachers in a Sunday school class. I indicated the subject required a follow-up discourse, specifically to touch upon parental responsibility and good parenting skills.
The teaching of manners and appropriate conduct should not be the responsibility of the school. The school could and should help. But that specific responsibility belongs clearly to parents.
A common misconception in modern society is that parenting is a commonsense practice that evolves instinctively with the arrival of children.
That’s a gross misunderstanding; and, it is as far off from what the understanding should be as the East is from the West – or North from the South.
Good parenting takes time, purpose, patience and training.
Today’s children have advanced skills straight from the cradle, so much so that a college degree (almost) in effective parenting could be extremely useful for today’s parents of such bright and inquisitive little people. In a very short window of time, new babies demonstrate astounding awareness of people, places and things (computers and smartphones). Within 12 months’ time, they are master manipulators of both technological devices and humans.
By age 2, they sometimes are the go-to guys to resolve technology challenges that blatantly pause, perplex and baffle grownups. How embarrassing is that? One must admit that the embarrassment quickly declines when one realizes the biological connection to the precocious young person. Actually, the embarrassment quickly shifts to a path for bragging about the precocity of the young person.
Today’s young children are showing evidence of being precocious at a much earlier age than previous generations of young children. Schools have a lot of brainpower with which to work and expand upon. These mentally gifted young people make for a very promising future for America. But the parents, the schools and the society (which must work to rid itself of the many devastating distractions that cause the young ones to lose their way) must effectively protect and nurture this great and resourceful human potential.
Adults can learn volumes upon volumes of information by simply observing the actions of young children. Much can be learned about how the brain functions by observing young children, starting from the very minute they arrive and hours and days after birth.
This urging of the need to educate and train parents in the skills of parenting is not intended to cast aspersions on modern parents, but instead to pronounce the severity and complexity of parenting today’s youth. It is offered to highlight the profound and complex science that parenting has become over the past decade or so.
Today’s children are not who we were; they are far more advanced. That is not to say the appropriate and the ideal standard of behavior is lost on them. It is to say, however, that parents need to step up their parent-awareness and parent-oversight skills.
There is a plethora of good examples of effective parenting within view and reach. Many of the effective standards and techniques can be located readily among families, friends and neighbors. Though children are different today and so are the parents, there are standard approaches that tend to produce the behaviors that we desire in children. Those standards need to be observed and emulated.
To no fault of their own, today’s children are the recipients of me-myself-and-I parental provisions and accommodations. The effects of these accommodations are ushered by the children into whatever environment they find themselves – at home, school or church. Unfortunately, these self-gratifying accommodations that many parents are driven to provide their children are doing children more harm than good. It majorly hinders their social, behavioral and academic growth and development.
I understand that many parents are attempting to shield their children from the many disadvantages they themselves might have endured as children, and they want to spare their children of those do-without experiences. Or, perhaps, parents could have been given everything they wished for as children, and want no less for their children.
Where is the happy and healthy medium? The best spot has to be somewhere situated along the continuum of these two extremes (providing plenty or not providing any). I remain confident that parents, students, educators and interested others have the appropriate cognitive and physical faculties and the capacities to locate the happy and healthy medium, for children’s sake.
It is expected that a number of readers will say that parenting is common sense. Here is my respectful reply: Common sense is not so common. Just pause for a minute and think of the times when certain actions should have been based on common sense, but common sense clearly was absent. Analytical skills (which are required to practice common sense) are critical thinking skills, which are situated at the higher end of the thinking spectrum.
Rearing children requires training in common sense, as well as early childhood development.
Fredrick Douglass was right: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
(The writer – a former superintendent of schools for the Richmond County Board of Education – is executive director of Horse Creek Academy charter school in Aiken, S.C.)