Thursday, October 17, 2019
Letting the Animals Run the Circus...
I have been a preschool teacher for a LOOOOOOOOOOONG time--almost a dozen years. My first students are in high school now, and I am still at it. And before jumping into the profession I dearly love, I was busy raising my (and my husband's) own four children. So as you can guess, I have had a lot of time to study, observe, and reflect on children.
My husband and I decided early on that we would not allow our little monkeys to rule the roost. We enforced bedtimes and a code of behavior that included no back talking, no physical violence, and in general a helpful attitude. We didn't always succeed at this but the love and respect grew over the years of effort, and the chores always got done before bedtime. No excuses.
As a preschool teacher, I find my students bright, engaging, funny, caring, sweet, and impossibly cute most of the time. I enjoy each and every minute that I get to share with them. I marvel at their triumphs (like coming to school sans blankie--when the first week we had a hard time putting blankie down to do anything). I swoon when they are willingly kind to each other -- sharing a toy or a turn with another classmate. I praise their paintings and block towers, and gladly help them put on their coats or wash their hands. They are amazingly capable and enthusiastic learners with kind and loving hearts.
So here is my struggle these days...PARENTS! My littles are blessed with loving and devoted parents. So what is the struggle, you ask? My preschool parents either have no energy or no knowledge of how to PARENT their children. The ringmasters have left the tent, and the monkeys are running wild.
They leave it all up to me. Do they teach them manners? Nope. I do. Do they teach them to follow instructions? Nope. I do. Do they even require them to look up when they hear their name? Nope. I do. And the list goes on and on. The bar is so low on the behavior that they accept, that it all falls to us in the classroom to corral and wrangle these little ones into a semblance of order.
We could never allow our preschool class of over a dozen children to run wild and do what ever they want every second of the day. Children would get hurt, the noise level would be frightening, and the environment would prove impossible for any sort of learning. But I am quite sure that many of my families allow this at home. This lack of parenting in the long term will be a detriment to these children. Children who grow up lacking all boundaries continually seek boundaries. Boundaries show a child who is in charge, which in turn make children feel safe and secure. Children raised without any boundaries or respect for their parents, have a higher likelihood to be depressed or indulge in risky behaviors in their later years. The research to prove this has been done, and I personally have seen it in my many years.
I wish I could figure out where this laissez-faire attitude towards parenting is coming from. These are parents who are by all accounts well-equipped. They are married, educated, and financially secure. They are lovely people. They are involved and helpful. But they don't seem to have the stomach or drive or backbone to parent. They cannot find the strength to make their children listen to them. They seem frightened of the result of being an authority in their children's lives. They seem to duck and cover rather than expecting that their child(ren) listen to them or follow any code of behavior. I am mystified.
When did parenting stop being a verb? Where have all the ringmasters gone?
I know parenting can be daunting, but that's why it's important start small. Expect a child to listen when her name is called. Have him make his bed every morning. Give them real consequences if they don't listen but also give real praise for what they accomplish. Have simple expectations of your children and their behavior. This will help them through the years. I promise it will.
And it may just keep me teaching preschool.