By Pepa Wenrich
Fifteen years ago, my husband and I attended our first Back-to-School-Night where our daughter's new first -grade teacher delivered a very clear and direct message:
"Tomorrow I will be sending homework for the first time. I haven´t done it until now because before, I need to ask something important of you. Every day students will bring home a folder with a few sheets of paper to work on. Every day I will explain in class what they have to do, they will prepare the folder and will put it in their backpacks before they go home. Please, allow them to complete their work by themselves and to put them back in their folder and backpack. Even if it feels very tempting to sit and help them with this just to make sure that they make it perfect and fast, this will create some problems:
1) If they don´t do it by themselves, I won´t be able to see how much the students are learning in class.
2) If tomorrow you sit with your child to do homework, you will still be sitting with your child doing homework in 6th grade... and believe me... it won´t be fun any more.
So please, unless they specifically ask for help, let them be responsible for the work that I send home".
I am not sure how many parents paid attention that night. But I did. And over the years, slowly but surely my children' work load grew. But along with the amount of work, their sense of responsibility and autonomy grew too. Today, our daughter is a senior in college and our son is about to leave home for his freshmen year. So for the first time in fifteen years I won't be attending a back-to-school-night. As I watch my son getting ready to go off to college, the advice of that first back-to-school-night came back to me, because it had a tremendous impact on the role that I decided to play in my children's schooling.
Since I know that the advice that most of you will hear as you visit your children's schools this fall will be to "get involved," I wanted to share with you the best piece of advice that I have ever received.
Thank you Ms. VanderStoel!
By Pepa Wenrich .-
Many parents today complain that their children do not respect them as they should and they confess not knowing what to do about it. Teachers complain that misbehavior is a problem in schools which is not easily solved. Children today learn faster and sooner than ever before, yet many of them do not show the same precociousness towards good behavior. There seems to be what John Rosemond calls a "disciplinary paralysis" all around us, where parents have resigned themselves to the idea that “today’s kids just aren’t like they used to be.”
In fact, children today are the same as always; what has changed is the way parents treat them. The job of parents, now as always, is to take care of their children, disciple them and provide the conditions for optimal development physically, emotionally and intellectually. In order to do so parents must earn the respect of their children, with love and limits. Many well-meaning parents today are having trouble setting limits for their children either because they don’t understand the consequences of raising children without limits, or simply because they don’t know how to set limits.
It is easy to confuse patience with permissiveness, and limits with physical, verbal or psychological aggression. Some parents avoid disciplining their children because of the resentment of authority they had when they were growing up. Thus, they prefer to avoid confrontation with their children. Other parents, consciously or unconsciously, repeat the patterns of control and aggressiveness with which they themselves were raised. Actually, neither permissiveness nor aggressions of any kind are effective ways to set limits for children. Worst yet, these methods can negatively impact the character of the child and the harmony of family life. A parent-child relationship in which firmness and harmony reigns is very important in the lives of children because through it they learn to interact not only with parents but also with siblings, friends, teachers, and others.
To set limits for children is to know when to say "yes" and how to say "no”. It is a simple task when children are young, but if parents do not take it seriously it will become an increasingly challenging task as children grow older. To learn to respect others and to set limits for others are two fundamental aspects of the child´s education. It is a learning process that involves, practicing and, at times, making mistakes and suffering consequences. It is through healthy boundaries, set firmly and consistently by parents, that children understand that they must respect others, and earn the respect of others. They internalize what is right and what is wrong and they learn to tolerate frustration. Living with reasonable boundaries will allow them to make good decisions every day which will result in good behavior. A child who is educated in this way is more likely to navigate the difficult years of adolescence prepared to meet the challenges they inevitably will encounter.
Limits are a perplexing issue for many parents; however giving children consistent boundaries has considerable, even life-changing benefits for the whole family. Regardless of the age of the children, any time is a good time to understand the importance of limits, to assess how well one is doing, and finally to implement strategies making limits a part of your child´s life.