Communication - The Key to a Happy Family life
As a parent and teacher I have learned that my behavior is just as important as that of my children or students. Here are two of my own personal rules.
One is to keep the lines of communication open. Find ways to communicate with your children. When my children were teens and preteens I would find a television program that focused on relationships and watch it with them. Inevitably there would bediscussion about why this character did what he or she did. This gave me an opportunity to pass on my values without being preachy.
When I taught junior high school, I had a student who was the only African-American student in the classroom. I never observed any overt teasing of this student, but he had a chip on his shoulder. I am sure he felt out of place and perhaps was suffering from some prejudice from other students. One day we did a lesson where the students represented modifying a noun with adjectives by drawing a picture. This student drew a wonderful picture that clearly depicted the phrase he had chosen. I praised him in front of the whole class and put his pictureup as one of the best representations of the lesson. After that, he smiled more often, he drew more, and he warmed up to me.
Second, I believe there is a difference between discipline and punishment. No child who just makes a mistake should be punished. Punishment involves humiliation. This does not mean you can't use a time out, or take away privileges. It is the manner in which it is done that is important. It should not be done to lash out with your own emotions. Believe me I have had a sore tongue from time to time, but I always tried to calm down first. I would send the child to his or her room until I could compose myself. Perhaps I would put off the decision of what the discipline should be until I had time to think it through. Sometimes I even involved the children in deciding what the discipline should be.
Discipline involves internalizing the lesson to be learned so that it becomes part of a positive character trait. I always tried to remember what Kahlil Gibran said, "Your children are not your own. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself." My mission was to guide them. They were not my property to do with what I wanted. In essence the discipline needed to involve something pertinent to the infraction. For example, if they had been unkind to some other person, they would need to first apologize to that person. This was often the hardest thing to do and tended to prevent future infractions. If they broke something that belonged to someone else, they would have to earn the money to replace it. If they had broken a rule about doing homework, we would work with the teacher and require a note to be signed that homework was turned in.
I hope these experiences are of some help to others. I feel so sad about the kids who commit crimes of violence. They throw their entire life away when life has so much to offer them. If some adult had paid attention, noticed the warning signs, and taken some action, perhaps they would not have committed the crime.
Mary Ellen Wilson is president of eMediaPartners, Inc., a streaming media, content management, and ecommerce solution company. She produces and hosts www.worldtodiscover.com", a family radio show and website. She has a BS in secondary education with an emphasis in communicative arts. She has taught children from preschool to high school and is a mother of two grown children.
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