Who, around here, is responsible for this mess???

January 4, 2007

As a teacher I am constantly asked how I think the children today are? I am bombarded with condolences for my job, due to the perceived difficulties that must be happening with the children. I am often made aware that the children I teach must be the worst ever, according to the adults I run into. Well…..

As I stood today listening to the tale of one of the youngsters it occurred to me that the adults in this child’s life must not understand at all. While many of our parents today are doing a wonderful job and their children are well-adjusted and responsible, far too many are not. I often am the recipient of the poor behavior that began because “my mom and I had a fight this morning….sorry” when that behavior is bad enough for me to have to get administration involved. I cannot imagine sending my child off into the day knowing that the last thing I said to her would stir her anger all day. Sure, we’ve had our days, nights, and weekends, where we didn’t agree or get along too well. But, she always knew that she was still my “one and only”.

The lack of respect displayed between the children and their parents is amazing. They call their children horrible names and then can’t understand why the child stays mad. They expect the child to overlook what they said, or did, out of anger yet they keep telling the child not “to speak to me in that tone.” Shouldn’t we as adults model the behavior we want to see in the child? Shouldn’t we be the ones to calm down first, after all we have seen many moments of frustration and know that they will pass?

I cannot imagine responding to my child as other parents do. I saw a woman screaming at the top of her lungs at a child in a store. She was demanding that he stop whining and put down the toy he had asked for. I was standing immobilized by the display. As the tantrum of the child, and that of its mother, grew in intensity, I was sure I knew where he learned the behavior. Do we ever stop to think about the way our children see us?

I remember thinking that some of the questions children are asked make little sense, yet we expect them explain themselves fully. I actually heard a father ask his son if he wanted him (the father) to hit him (the son). I thought “why would he want that?” What a stupid question!!! And this father will be amazed when the child hits his little brother…wondering where in the world he learned that.

Do we understand how bad the words that we say hurt the people we love? I have been in the presence of so many crying children, I know that few of the parents I see realize it. Most of them say what ever comes to mind….or at least to mouth. They never even guess that their child may be suicidal. They never understand why the child sneaks out at night. Yeah, like why would the child want to be away from such a monster? Then, often, the monster attempts to explain that “I was just mad…sorry.” Sure, I guess the child merely erases that from its memory.

This is not written to impune all parents. I just feel so sorry for both parties. There is only one greater relationship on Earth than parent to child….that being the one between the parents….and yet people tear both relationships apart over and over. What do they get for all of their trouble? Better wives, husbands, and children….it seems they only get greater anger and frustration from all corners. Do we really want our children to approach us in fear? I have seen large teenage boys tremble at the approach of their mother….terrified of her force of personality and authority. I have actually heard fathers state that they wanted their sons to “respect” them…..that isn’t respect…..thats fear. They are not the same. We wonder why our children have become so violent. Yet they aren’t the ones shooting at others who cut them off on the highway. What do we desire of them? What could possibly be more important than securing the love of our children? Oh yeah, we have to be right!! Is being right worth the tension in our families? Is being right and forcing a child to do our bidding, worth the wrath that child simmers until the explosion occurs?

At some point both parties must remember that it is the family that does the burying. It is the family that is to supply the scaffolding that is the main support for the child’s future. Without that support we all run a great risk of collapse. I have actually seen a parent viscously scolding a child, becoming a screaming spectacle, over insignificant things (like candy at the store, uncleaned rooms, unmade beds, etc). What will these parents do if the child wrecks the car later in life? I’m sure the child wonders the same thing.

Too often in parent teacher meetings we, teachers, exchange quick knowing glances as the parent explains why things have gone wrong. Too often the behaviors that we see in the kids are there, older, grayer, and usually angrier.

After all of these years teaching, I’m not sure that children have changed all that much, but I am sure parenting seems to have changed. The levels of frustrations in families of all socioeconomic levels seems to be rising. How many tears must we all shed? How many angry words can pass between us? How much pain can the hearts of all stand? Must we find out??? Must we be sure to be the major heartache in our child’s life? While it is never a one-sided affair, it cannot be overlooked that it is the parent who holds the position of authority and thus, the position of the greatest responsibility.


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