Boundaries and Discipline

How can parents just shrug off their responsibility of disciplining  their children?

PTM  or the Parent Teacher Meeting is the one place which satisfies my hunger for people-watching. And this is one place which forces me to judge fellow parents.

No. I am not the perfect parent. I don’t claim to be one. Nor are my girls the epitome of discipline.  But I sure don’t turn a blind eye to my child’s  misbehavior like many others.

Mom being a teacher and having raised us single-handedly during the major part of our growth years, our lessons on discipline began right at home and from the moment we stepped into this world. I have constantly blamed her for strict parenting and over disciplining. But today as I look back I thank her for the way she raised us though I still argue that she could have been a little more expressive with her love. Nevertheless, we are what we are because of our parents who instilled values and discipline in our lives. And I am grateful to them for the way they shaped us.

At the PTM this Saturday, I saw all kind of parents. Just like all kinds of children. Overall the bouquet looked beautiful. But certain parts of the garden showed signs of infestation and decay.  I am someone who believes that a child’s behavior and manners reflect the atmosphere at their home. And this has been proved again and again through many of the PTMs.

There was this mother who did not even think twice before hitting her daughter in front of the entire school because she lied about not receiving the answer sheets. Lying is not something unusual for children at this age. As a mother, I admit that I have seen this behavior in my own child. And I do have reasons which are  not at all related to how her teachers were handling her.

She scored good marks, yet she would lie to me about not getting the answer sheets till the PTM day. I would be furious but I would not talk to her till the time I cooled down. It helped me understand her better. She used to lie because she was afraid of my yelling. It’s a different matter that I never scold them or yell at them for studies related matters. I was am average student and I don’t keep high expectations from the children. My duty is to provide them with resources and help them utilize these. She used to lie also to avoid talks about studies for as long as she could. Is that abnormal for a child to do?

I took time to understand her fears and then spoke to her in detail about it. It was a heart to heart chat and the child was ensured that she will not be admonished for her grades and that I would control my yelling issue. 85% improvement in my yelling issue. Still needs improvement. But I hope you noticed that the issue was not with the child or with her teachers, but with the parent, that is me. She was lying to me because she was afraid of me. Thankfully, I caught hold of the situation in time and took control.

At the school, I felt like confronting that mother. But I did not. The teacher did. The child’s face was red with fear, pain and humiliation. I saw a glimpse of my past on her face. Mom used to get instantly notified about the mistakes I did in each paper and the questions I did not attempt in each paper. She had whipped me with the cane stick in the school corridors till I was in ninth standard. That’s what gave birth to the rebel within me. It was so humiliating to be snapped in front of an entire school.  Repeated episodes only distanced me from her and made me indifferent to her behavior. 

There was another set of parents who kept on sitting there without an iota of shame or regret as their son, a grade six student, kept on arguing with the teachers and giving excuses for each of his mistakes. I don’t say that children should not be heard. But I don’t encourage rude and disrespectful behaviour in children. As parents it was their duty to interrupt him and ask him to be polite and respectful. What I see these days is that most parents do not respect the teachers and the same attitude is picked up by the children. It pains me when I listen to children talking disrespectfully with teachers and other elders.

In the name of freedom we are sometimes going overboard with things. A teacher or ‘guru’ must be respected irrespective of whether they are perfect or not. And every parent must give at least that much respect to the teacher to ensure that their children do not misbehave with the teacher.

There was this boy in fourth grade who keeps troubling girls by pouring water inside their school bags spoiling all their books and other items. I mentioned this to the teacher and clearly told her that she only had to counsel him not to do so. But she asked me to give a written complaint as there were many other complaints against the boy and the parents could be apprised of the situation by means of all the written complaints. I did not write one. A 9-year-old making mistakes is far better than all of us making the mistake of branding a child as ‘BAD’. Later I came to know that his mother broke down in front of the teacher. I will not go into the details of this case as I did not witness it personally. But my personal experience says that children imitate the behavior or elders and they express their views and concerns through such behavior outside the home.

There were parents who kept on complaining about each and every teacher. There are problems with some teachers who are inexperienced but there can’t be a problem with all the teachers…right? How can we expect the teacher or the school alone to imbibe values and discipline in our children? Isn’t it our duty first to instill these values in our children.

Parents are responsible for a child’s bad behavior as well as his/her discipline. Forcefully making them accept a certain behavior or rule is wrong. Give logical explanation for everything you tell them and they will understand it better. We are the role models for our children. I am sure you would have seen your children imitating you and your spouse. Mine sure imitate me a lot. They do so even with the yelling and that’s what forced me to take control of the situation by improving my behavior.

Children copy the behavior they see at home, and this can affect their discipline in schools and at other occasions. Adults have to model behavior that they want, because otherwise how does the child learn? What’s your take on this? Do you think that discipline is something that’s the responsibility of the school? Or do you take active interest in disciplining your child at home by modeling responsible behavior and setting the necessary boundaries?

By the way, I forgot to share the expansion for PTM that the girls use at home.

“Pitwayegi Teacher Mummy Se…” 😀

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Discipline and Morality: Collective Lessons through Parenting and Teaching

I had been to the School PTM last weekend. And this is what I had scribbled as the young faces occupied my heart and mind almost all day long.

“All it takes for a dull moody me to jump up all excited is to attend the school PTM. The keywords to take away: silent star, hard-working, talkative, naughty, distracted, quick learner, shines bright, lacks initiative, speaks less, under-confident, committed, disciplined.

A teacher must be respected for she/he knows your child much better than you. They know their strengths and weaknesses and can help focus on the need areas. Felt bad watching some parents who literally gheraoed the teacher for a typo error in the question paper of grade I. How is the child going to respect the teacher when the parents exhibit this behaviour in front of them?

I love to listen to their complaints more than the academic performance. Actually, it is not the complaints but the expressions on those not-so-innocent baby faces worrying about what the teachers are going to disclose today. While most parents looked stressed, upset, angry and dissatisfied, the children had lit up faces meeting their friends, shaking hands and winking to each other in the school corridors.

Marks or less marks or no marks, these carefree days must be cherished. It’s their right. We owe it to them. Those little secrets. Those silly gossips. Those crazy friendships. Those cold stares. Those adolescent glances. All of them.”

But there is also something that has been bothering me since then.
I noticed that almost all the parents had some complaint or the other regarding one teacher or the other. Instead of interacting with the teacher to assess your child’s development, most of them were spending longer periods of time in pinpointing the mistakes of the teacher. Interesting thing is most of the mistakes that were being highlighted sounded really silly and sometimes made up. And in almost all cases, those parents were more interested in humiliating the teacher.

It is natural that we want the best for our children because we spend half of our hard-earned money on the school fees which keeps on getting inflated year after year. Teaching good manners, kindness and compassion for others is not only a teacher’s job. It starts from day one. Right from the time you hold your baby for the first time. It is our responsibility. I heard a parent tell the teacher proudly, “I told him to give five-six punches if anyone troubles him and I’ll take care of the rest.

Is that what you must teach a class three student?

The other day Li’l Love ran up to me at ‘home time’ crying. Upon asking she revealed that two boys from her class stepped on a small butterfly that was sitting on the floor. When I told her that they must not have seen it she said that they did it deliberately even after she told them not to harm it.

She is over-sensitive when it comes to tiny insects, except lizards. She wouldn’t allow us to use Hit or Baygon. Instead she wants us to chase the mosquitoes away. A cockroach she says never bites and so must not be harmed. I still remember how her three-year old self had spoiled our holiday in Munnar after she found a beetle she had admired one evening lying dead the very next morning. We tried to tell her that death is a natural process.

I repeated the same lesson on the butterfly day. But she said that this is not death but murder. She is not wrong. Any death that is not natural and is inflicted by others is a murder. A definition that WE taught her. I finally told her that may be their parents forgot to tell them that hurting others is wrong and killing a live being is a murder. Her father too had a separate session with her.

  • Why are young children showing signs of aggression?
  • Why are they so disrespectful?
  • Why are they so indifferent?
  • Why are they apathetic towards others?
  • Why can’t they feel the pain of others?
  • Is it because of lack of time from parents?
  • Is it lack of moral education at home and at school?
  • Is it because of excessive exposure to violence and crime through newspapers, television and other medium?

I feel there is something grossly wrong with the way children are being brought up these days. Parents I have noticed are encouraging improper language used for fellow students as well as teachers by their ward. In the name of being more understanding and accepting, we are sometimes being supportive for all the wrong reasons.

Excess of anything is poison. Love. Neglect. Trust. Criticism. Discipline. Sympathy. Punishment. Learnt it the hard way.

But the point is how do we tackle this problem that is consuming our future generation? I believe only a collective effort from parents and teachers can solve the problem. Instead of finding faults with each other we must learn to find solutions to behavioral issues in children and provide timely counselling to the child to help him/her escape from major wrongdoings. They must focus on teaching the child the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour.

Together we can.

Parent-Teacher-meeting