Friday, 17 May 2019

What does love look like?

Teamwork in Year 1

When things go wrong in a child’s life, either at home or school, a basic but very important question cuts through all the other dialogue adults engage in.

What do you want for your child ? On the face of it, this is a simple question. most parents would say they want
their child to be kind, resilient, responsible, secure in themselves and with their peers, happy and confident,
loving and keen to learn.

Over my 40 plus years being an educator I have met many parents about their child’s behaviour and/or
happiness at school. In these situations, parents are usually upset and in some cases very emotional. Quite often
the child has been having trouble with peers and a lot of blame is attached to how these children are
treating the child concerned. Some families want punitive action against these other children. In many cases
the child who is having trouble has a history of ‘scratchy’ relationships with other children and in some cases
taken the ‘victim’ approach. Everyone is ‘picking on me’. Usually when I have ‘dug into’ the situation the issue is
complex but quite often, it comes down to the child not having the skills to form strong relationships.
They are fragile, feeling insecure and get into the ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ mode quickly.

Some children have difficulty making friendships usually because they have yet to learn some of the simple
fundamental rules about developing positive relationships. Sadly this deficit can burden the individual for life.

If a child has been regularly indulged by their parents they innocently learn to respond to their world as if they
are the ‘centre of the universe’.

In her article ‘How to Ensure Kids Know They’re Not the Centre of the Universe’, Katie Mertes says, “In a
materialistic world focused on having the latest and greatest, the biggest and best, our children are headed
down a dangerous path of being robbed of their joy. Consider this: if a child grows up with the mindset of always
needing more, never sitting with contentment, never practising true gratitude, we are inadvertently telling them
that life is meant to serve them. They will be completely unprepared to enter the “real world” where hard work
is necessary and important, and things are not handed to them.” Her short article is worth a quick read.

It is rather cliched but the old book of ‘How to win friends and influence people’, (1) has advice which pertains to
us all, adults and children alike. It is not rocket science.
Some key advice for children

  1. Show genuine interest in other people. ( it’s not all about ‘me’)
  2. Be warm and friendly. (smile)
  3. Know your peers names.
  4. Be a good listener. (again, it’s not all about ‘me’)
  5. Talk about or ask about the other person’s interests.
  6. Be willing to help the other person feel positive about themselves by complimenting them on things.
  7. Show respect for the other person’s viewpoint. It is important children feel comfortable to express their
own viewpoint and maybe agree to disagree rather than saying they are wrong. (don’t have to agree
but you can listen and try and see what is being said from the other person’s viewpoint)

This may come across as insincere and manipulative but it will only be this way if the child is not sincere about
wanting to be friendly and they don’t truly care about the other person’s feelings.

Modelling is the key--if you swear they will swear.  If you put people down in subtle or not so subtle ways, they
will will learn to do this. If you behave like a bully (mental or physical) or  gossip about people, they will learn to
become bullies and gossips. If you eat unhealthily, they will more than likely take on these habits. If you have a
‘victim mentality’ blaming everyone but yourself for the misfortunes of life, your children will more than likely
take on this persona.

Our school values are a good place to start. These 3 basic tenants of life are a good compass for us all. Respect,
Responsibility and Resilience.

These values represent how we all should try and live our lives. I say try because it is really hard being a good
parent and it is not about being a paragon of virtue.

So going back to my original question, ‘what does love look like?’ Well for me it is about supporting children to
be decent human beings who can contribute to society in positive ways. If we can do this our children will be
secure and happy and full of appreciation and love. Often this can require tough love. **

Habits are formed early in life and there is more than some truth in the famous quote by Aristotle, the famous
philosopher (384BC) “Give me a child until they are 7 and I will show you the man.” The upshot clearly is to start
early with children and be consistent with your support and expectations.

There are a million pieces of advice available around all this and I don’t mean to sound as if I have all the
answers because I don’t. However, a good place to start is looking at ourselves and what we are modelling.

  1. Dale Carnegie  ‘How to win friends and influence people’.

**Tough love is a parenting approach that can help children see that although their parents love them, they aren't going to
enable them. Tough love parenting can still be warm and empathetic.  It involves clear boundaries and limits.
Consequences are enforced as a way to teach teens life lessons.

Tough love is not about being hard and punitive. Looking for positive behaviour and praising it is so powerful and this
should always be the focus but at times boundaries and expectations will need to be enforced quietly, consistently and
calmly. Don’t give way to tantrums, melt downs or victim behaviour.