This article highlights a great need within Public Schooling, but it has enormous implications for the home schooling family, too. A family’s example, and specifically the example of parents, is probably the prime factor when it comes to the successful education of children. I can endorse nearly all of it.
What’s Love got to Do with It?
By Sharon Lamberth
A few years ago, while serving as principal of a high-risk elementary school [in the U.S.], a student, whom I will call Jack, was brought to my office. It was not Jack’s first office visit and, as with prior visits, the reason for this one stemmed from an inability to control his anger that led to aggressive behaviours.
On this particular day, while talking with Jack, he suddenly looked at me and said, “Are you married?” After answering that I was, he then asked, “Why?” I could tell by the look on Jack’s face that he was most sincere in his inquiry. He then proceeded to tell me that his mother was living with a man to whom she was not married, and the man was not his father. He went on to say that his mother and biological father were also never married. Seeming to have a need to stay on the subject, Jack proceeded to share that his mother and her current boyfriend “argued all the time” and he wished they would go their separate ways, adding, “but then it probably won’t be long before there will be someone else.”
Jack’s life had been a revolving door of live-in boyfriends, some of whom had told him to call them “Dad,” which he sometimes did hoping that by doing so a father-son relationship might evolve; a relationship that he could count on and hold onto but that never happened. At best, Jack’s understanding of his own emotions was limited. His teachers and fellow students observed in him an angry student with a chip on his shoulder. On really bad days, when the chip became a log, a visit to my office was inevitable. As I listened to this young boy, it struck me that he had never truly experienced unconditional parental love, critical to healthy development in children.
My 34 years in education taught me many things about children, one being that anger is often a mask for fear – fear of failure, fear of being rejected, fear of being unloved or unlovable, fear of what the future holds, fear of abandonment, and so on and so on and so on. I saw many “Jacks” over the course of my career; children who didn’t know how to give or receive genuine love; children whose lives were so chaotic that what felt like sincere parental love one day was likely destroyed the next in the form of rejection, broken promises, abuse, etc. Classroom teachers regularly observe students showing residual effects of a dysfunctional family life: falling asleep in class, taking on the role of parent in an effort to protect younger siblings, struggling to keep up academically, difficulty focusing on learning due to the weight of their emotional baggage, to name a few.
Throughout this nation, parents and children suffer from a lack of understanding of what healthy love is. As a result, the struggle to raise emotionally stable children is at the root of many, if not most, of the problems that ail our society today. Healthy love embodies the biblical teaching of loving one’s neighbour as oneself. It is kind, respectful, and nurturing. Healthy love manifests itself in actions as well as words, recognizing not only our own needs, but the needs of others. Jack had never known this type of love. As a result, he was not able to engage in healthy relationships with his teachers and peers. Without a healthy love of self, he was also not able to tap into his personal potential. Jack spent his days using anger to help him cope with his feelings of rejection and defeat.
Another one of Jack’s coping mechanisms was playing video games. Some of the most popular children’s video games exploit violence and aggression and can lead children to believe that such behaviours are acceptable and, in fact, normal. A report released by the American Psychological Association (APA) on violent video games concluded that there is a “consistent relation between violent video game use and heightened aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognitions, aggressive affect and reduced prosocial behaviour, empathy, and sensitivity to aggression.” It should be noted that researchers continue to banter back and forth as to how, and the degree to which, violent games impact children. However, from a common-sense standpoint, it was clear to me that seeking solace in video games was problematic for Jack. At age 10, he was already being set up for failure on multiple fronts.
For years, the educational system has tried to fix society’s problems by pouring more money into new programs, revamping curriculums, creating magnet schools, adjusting grading scales, implementing block scheduling, promoting zero suspensions, etc., etc., etc., all with limited success. Resources are being exhausted in attempts to instil motivation in students through external means. External motivation alone, however, is unsustainable if the internal pull that creates a personal desire to succeed is lacking; a pull necessary to achieving sustainable success. Jack seemed to be void of any constructive intrinsic motivation. The motivation to play video games was nothing more than a desire to escape (albeit temporarily) the pain and frustration of his life.
The educational system cannot be expected to singlehandedly fix a problem that it did not create. Fixing the problem lies, primarily, in fixing the family. Emotionally unhealthy families produce emotionally unhealthy children and emotionally unhealthy children struggle to reach their optimal potential. Until parents recognize, accept and resolve to make fundamental changes to ensure that they provide their children with unconditional parental love and effective parental leadership (cornerstone principles for raising children) the current cycle will continue.
Breaking the cycle will require a return to common-sense parenting; on re-educating parents on traditional parenting practices that were the norm before post-modern psychological ideologies took hold in the late 1960’s and attempted to undo the logical parenting practices that served families well for generations. Ideologies that imply that as society changes so too must parenting techniques. The result has been nothing short of disastrous. Society may change, but human development does not. Throughout history, all have gone through the same seasons of life (infancy, toddlerhood, childhood, adolescence) that lead to their emancipation from the family (adulthood).
The family is the backbone of any successful society. As such, the ultimate goal for all children is to become respectful, responsible, resourceful adults; a goal that requires parents to make developing strong character in their children the number one priority. Developing strong character is not dependent on academic achievement, sports recognition, popularity, brand names, family social status or income. Character is a by product of parenting that is solidly rooted in love and leadership.
The crisis within the American family must be addressed with a seriousness that hasn’t been seen in almost two generations. If, as a nation, we fail to make this a priority, Jack’s story will live on in yet another generation of children.
Certified Leadership Parent Coach
Sharon is an educator whose career has spanned over 30 years. She has served as a home-hospital instructor, elementary school classroom teacher, curriculum facilitator, assistant principal and principal. Married for over 35 years, Sharon is the mother of two adult children and a grandmother. Her approach is both compassionate and forthright, with the goal of helping the next generation parent from a position of love and leadership using a common-sense approach.
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