Articles On Effective Families and Parenting

Child Behaviour

#Education: Should We Lead Or Follow Young People?

Is #engagement with #youngpeople validating negative #behaviour, or is it being used to create the adults #society wants? Have adults given up on leading young people?

Newspaper headlines frequently suggest we are in crisis, although we live in an age of reduced crime and increased educational achievement! Young people are blamed for so much, but is it the adults who are struggling to keep up in a dynamic world?

Children's lives are more different from their parents and teachers today than they have ever been before... in history children lived and worked alongside their parents, in preparation to take their place in the world. Most teachers and many parents today grew up at a time where most entertainment was family orientated and where the adults were experts in the world we were preparing to enter.

Today it is very different, many adults, parents and teachers, feel lost in the world children inhabit. A world of ever changing social networks, high technology, evolving language, and global friendships. I have heard teachers and parents say they feel unable to access this world, and feel lost. Newspaper reports frequently bemoan the rise of text speak and emoticons in school work, and the inability of children to learn formal language, or understand history. Is this a problem? Language always evolves, and the new does not have to replace the traditional, both can coexist.

Often those with responsibility for educating, counselling or guiding the young seem to concentrate on mimicking youth culture to connect with young people, engagement is seen as the goal. However, mimicking youth culture is rarely successful as children and young adults are not fooled by superficial attempts to attract them, and actually one feature of contemporary youth culture is that it does not exist! What I mean by this is that more than ever before we have a huge diversity of youth cultures, and of young people, all equally valid. Engagement tends to focus on urban popular youth culture, but misses the many alternatives, and misses the many young people who feel just as alienated by this as the adults. All young people need support, understanding and a voice; and all adults need to understand this need.

Furthermore, as adults and as a society should we not be leading rather than chasing? Should we not respect all the youth cultures, interact with them, listen to them; but be strong and resolute in establishing the cultural norms of our society? It is accepted that any large organisation requires a strong vision which is reinforced constantly by practice, norms of behaviour and rules. Engagement with young people should be a means to lead them, not an end in itself; it should have a positive impact on young people, not validate negative behaviour.

I believe that we get the young people we create, from the childhoods we choose for them. Children will, as they always have, create their own lives, but alongside these we need to lead young people. Children need communities, parents and professionals to care enough to challenge them when they need it, to listen to them when they need that and to ultimately to take responsibility for their development. Adults need to impact on children's lives, they need to establish the norms so that those children can succeed. As I have always said to children in Manchester when I have taught English, I respect your language, and please use it amongst family and friends but learn this formal language so you can go anywhere, and talk to anyone, get any job and be listened to, respected and understood. We need to understand, and lead the young, so they have every chance to succeed!


#Child Myths

As adults our approach to #children and #child #behaviour is largely learned from our own childhoods, although many of us do take on outside advice and copy approaches we see. However, many adults share certain myths about children which are untrue. Over the next few weeks I will challenge some of these:

First and foremost is the myth of 'keeping things from children". Children are often protected from adult upset and conflict by well-meaning adults who protect them being upset by trying to hide their own feelings. This is largely impossible! Children I have counselled and taught over the last 18 years usually know much more about their parents problems than their parents ever know. They are uniquely attuned to parent feelings and feel empathetically the upset.

The problem is by trying to hide our feelings from children we leave them with only a partial understanding, or none at all. They are left confused and isolated, to deal with the issues themselves. They may also assume they are being excluded because they or their feelings are unimportant, and learn to suppress feelings storing up problems for the future. In the short term they may begin to show negative behaviours, to act out their feelings or demonstrate a mistrust of adults. They may also feel they have to protect their parents by hiding their own issues, leaving them lost and vulnerable.

Instead, they need adults to share feelings in a safe and measured way. They need us to show them it is OK to be upset, to have feelings, and that these can be dealt with. The feelings can be shared, empathised with, and soothed. They need us to show them it is OK to have feelings and things can be coped with, and get better.
You Rarely Are Aware Of The Last Time... Being Mindful To Appreciate What We Have Now, That Might One Day End!

My eldest son is now at school, and where he once curled up on my knee every night to fall asleep it is now less frequent. I know each and every time he does this I must appreciate that special trust and love that exists between us, as this demonstration of that relationship will not last forever. A time will come when he no longer does this, when he is too big and feels too old. I will miss it, and I want to be aware to be able to remember that last time. I don't want to stop or slow his development, I love his growth, but I have learned that we usually seem to let the last time special things happen slip by unnoticed.

I did not know the last time I saw my grandparents and mother would be the last time, I did not know the birthday meal she cooked for me back in 1998 would be the last meal of hers I enjoyed. I did not know the last Christmas spent with my complete family would be the last time we would share that day together, maybe we wouldn't have argued so endlessly about Scrabble if we had known! I did not appreciate as much as I should have done my little sisters hug and "I've missed you", the last time I walked into my parents house and she was alive and healthy.

Of course some things I greatly miss may seem more trivial; the last time I saw a friend who has since drifted away, or the last night with a group of friends in a particular bar, but even these losses are felt. We cannot hold onto to every person and habit in our lives, but we can remember to appreciate them, we can be mindful of all we have.

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