Why is it that disciplinary meetings with parents and students so often go the same way, with parents focusing on everything but the student’s bad behavior? I understand the importance of listening to students and parents so that they’re heard. I understand that we make some mistakes at school too and that we’re not perfect, none of us, not the kids and not me. And I do listen, it’s important.
But I also understand that taking the focus off of the child’s mistake, especially when it’s big enough to land in a hearing, does nothing to help that child learn something productive from the experience. It does nothing to help the child change. Assigning blame and responsibility everywhere else just teaches children that they have an external locus of control. If they do not control their own lives, how do they possibly function as a successful, productive adult? I’m truly not complaining here, I’m trying to express concern for the children who grow up with this perception about the world. I think this may be the single most important lesson we teach our children.
Our students who have parents who say to their children, “I don’t care why you did it, it was wrong and it will not happen again.“, are the parents and students whom I never have to meet with in a disciplinary hearing.
In my experience working with students of all kinds for seventeen years, those who are accountable for their actions, without excuses, are the most successful. We must teach our children personal responsibility instead of assigning blame elsewhere. It is, honest to goodness, in their best interest as future spouses, employees, and parents. It’s too important to mess up.
I don’t mean we never cut a kid some slack. They’re kids, not adults, and most of the adults I work with (including me) need some slack every now and then too. I mean teaching kids that when they do fall short, and we all do, that they stand up and be accountable.
I realize now, at 42 years old, that I’m grateful to my parents. I’m glad they expected good grades, told me I’d be punished at home if I ever dared receive detention, accepted no excuses, taught me how to say “I’m sorry”, expected me to fight my own battles and to stand on my own two feet. I’m grateful to my mother for telling me she wasn’t there to entertain me and therefore go find something to do. And I’m especially grateful that I have that model in my head as I raise my own two children.
I wish I could figure out a curriculum to teach this. I wish I could find a way to change the family climate and to change the model for children growing up this way.