I wish to add my point of view with regard to the article ‘Crumbling under pressure’ published in the Sunday Times Plus where the writer explores the approach parents and teachers should take when dealing with teens.
Whilst I am not a teacher, I am fortunate and privileged to wear the hat of a working parent (not yet of teens though) employed in the corporate sector.
Recently, when considering retention of people in the organization, we were confronted by three aspects of why employees choose to either remain in their jobs or leave.
I found threads of those reasons very pertinent to the question of pressure that children face today.
The three areas we discussed and reached consensus on as being important for employees to remain in an organization are as follows: Firstly it was felt that a person needs to enjoy his or her job.
One’s everyday work must not only be challenging and interesting, but there must be some personal fulfilment that one derives from work that ensures a person stays on in an organization.
Secondly the role of the boss was seen to be a deciding factor.
It could be the style and attitude of the boss, his or her power of facilitation, the empowerment given to work, the freedom within a framework etc that makes or breaks an employee and leads him/her to either stay with the organisation or leave.
Lastly, the future of the employee … the visibility and transparency he/she has with regard to his/her career movement, his/her perceived value to the function and organisation, was seen to be the third factor to a person remaining in a given job.How are these facets explored in the parent-child relationship?
One of the primary reasons of stress and unhappiness that children go through today is because they are not happy doing what they do. Often I find students who pursue a first degree which they have no heart for simply because their father and or mother wanted them to do medicine or engineering etc. Being intelligent the child passes exam after exam and although everyone is thrilled with his/her performance, few stop to consider if he/she is happy, enjoying his/her success or if he/she is merely doing what is “expected” of him/her… just ticking the box as it were.
Even those who have the rare privilege of choosing to do what they like find un-empathetic teachers who just do their job of completing the syllabuses and finishing X many past papers without adding anything to enhance the “enjoyability” of the subject. So how can the teachers and principals of schools make the study of solar systems and planets more interesting?
Can we play games to visualise the concepts and basics of algebra…. Where two teams on either side become equal like two sides of an equation? Maybe a game of tug of war can give the same realisations of the concepts of equations in algebra.
All of us have diverse styles of learning … there are seven I believe from Verbal Linguistic, Logical-mathematical, Visual-spatial, Body-kinesthetic, Musical-rhythmic, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal intelligences, but sadly, very often learning is restricted to the verbal linguistic form alone.
Often in the home the “fun” parts of life are often sacrificed on the altar of learning. In fact in our endeavour to give our children the best, we unfortunately end up taking away from them, what they treasure most and what they enjoy most. We begin to weigh decisions on what is worth or not, not by what it means to the child, but whether it will add to his or her academic furtherance.
So art classes (which really in the final analysis don’t count right?) are replaced by an extra class. Sunday school is conveniently overlooked for a class because that’s the day the teacher is free, and then many years later we wonder why our children have not grown up to embrace the values we live by.
If we want to be happy and we want above else for our children to be happy then we must find the time and space to do more of the things that make us happy.
The boss factor
The boss is traditionally the one who takes the decisions, gives the right equipment to do the tasks, commissions the task and reprimands and or rewards when the task is completed. Let’s consider the role of boss that teachers and parents play in the lives of children.
Much has been written in the papers of the role of discipline and the pros and cons of correcting/punishing children for wrong behaviour and poor output. I for one, hold the view, that if a child is in the custody of the school for 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, then the child must adhere to the values and rules of the school, and if violated teachers and the school have a right to take up the matter with the child.
Now, how the matter is taken forward with the child is another issue, and this is where we can draw parallels between the boss and the teacher.
It is in the interest of the boss that the employee reform or learn the “how” to get to the end point of the target of the job. It is in his interest to ensure the employee takes corrective action and performs, because on his achievement is dependent the success of his team.
A good boss will discern his employee’s strengths, allow him to play to those strengths, coach him on his weak areas and allow him the space to get there in his own style. So long as we have agreement in the end point the ‘how’ should not be a cause of friction. And so it is with the teacher/child relationship or for that matter the parent-child relationship.
There are many end points that children and parents/teachers will agree on. We should be courteous, keep our environment including our rooms clean for health and one’s peace of mind, we must have a good balance of studies and play or TV. I am sure none of our children will disagree on these end points. The friction comes into play when we as parents and teachers try to enforce the ‘how’, to a ‘how’ that we think is what’s best and what is right.
There is only one right end – no debate, I believe. However, there can be many right roads to get there. That is often what we as parents and teachers fail to recognize.
How many of us adults like to be told what to do? We may argue that we are adults and so we know how to do something and when to do it. But it is the same with children, especially children getting into their teens.
Many responses children give regarding their teachers is that unless something is done the way the teacher taught, they are pulled up and questioned. In this day and age of the Internet and wide access to information not to mention eager parents and tuition teachers, this type of defensiveness on the part of teachers is unnecessary.
We like our bosses to stand up for us when there are issues - when we have messed up, we need to know they will be there for us. So it is with our children too. How many of our children have an assurance that they can mess up and yet come to their parents? If they mess up will you be there for them?
Children feel their value to their parents and teachers is judged by what they achieve. Sub-optimal achievement in the sphere of academics, sports, relationships therefore pressurizes kids to consider that they are not valued any longer because they have not lived up to expectations. They have not achieved 100 for mathematics, they have not come 1st in class, they have not got 8A’s for the OL’s, they have not made the first eleven cricket team, they have not won the championship trophy, they have got involved with someone of another religion and race, and so on, the list is endless.
As parents we have failed to value the child, value his/her life, instead we value what he/she can be.
It is human nature that we all want to know what will happen tomorrow. Yet we forget that we are indeed not in charge of our destinies. No matter how well we plan, how much we influence, how well we perform, nothing is assured. At best it can be hoped for. Like in the song “Que sera sera”, we expend so much energy and time and worry to find out what will be. Why? Because it is important for us to feel secure, feel valued, wanted and loved.
If we adults who can do a job and fend for ourselves, look after ourselves and provide shelter for ourselves and our families have a need to have assurance of the future, how much more important it is in the life of a child who is so dependent on his parents, teachers and care givers for care, love, food shelter and the basic amenities of life.
It is this vulnerable child who asks us “do you love me?”, “if I am really bad, or if I fail my exams will you still love me?” It is this same vulnerability that prompts the child to ask “will I get better tomorrow?” when he/she is down with a bad flu. And it is this same vulnerability that makes the child worry if his/her parents will get a divorce every time he/she hears them fight, because he/she values the comfort and the security of the family.
It is this same urge to secure the future that makes even an adult long for the consent of his/her parents for his/her marriage – because he/she wants to know his/her parents will be with him/her tomorrow, it is important for him/her.
Are we as teachers and parents reinforcing the future stability of our children?
So the next time we as teachers or parents engage with our children, let’s consider whether they are enjoying what they do.
Do they see in us the “boss in their lives” a role model and leader they respect and like to follow, and above all do they get a sense of security in terms of the future through us.
If we work towards fulfilling these three factors in the lives of our children, our families, their lives and our lives would be more meaningful and happy.
Above all, we will have fewer children who will choose to “leave” our homes, our values and our lives. May we all find the courage and strength to fulfil our roles in nurturing the future leaders of our country.