During my twenty-four years teaching a wide variety of more than 3,500 students, I have witnessed a worrisome decline in strong, intentional adult leadership. Too many teachers and parents today are inadvertently shortchanging the kids they care about.
By failing to properly develop in those children the common courtesy, cheerful cooperation, and consistent conscientiousness that set forth the foundation for a child’s every successful interaction and endeavor, both present and future, parents and teachers are doing kids a great disservice.
Rather than viewing any of this as mere accusation, however, consider these observations as a call to action! Adults must regain and reassert (and all in the most confident and calm of manners) their dutiful positions as worthy leaders and sage shepherds of children who actually crave dependability and direction from the significant adults in their lives.
It used to be a hallmark of dedicated adults to nurture and educate children with explicit guidelines and guidance in order to provide them with the necessary byways and boundaries every child requires to progressively become more responsible and independent. It also used to be commonplace for parents and teachers to utilize similar rules and routines in order to supply the soothing structure, security, and stability that allow all kids to flourish.
While the reasons why these crucial supports have fallen by the wayside or have been denigrated by those who think “it’s all about relationships” may be understandable, they are in fact misguided. Many adults are also missing the point as to the comprehensive needs of every child.
Even in the most ideal situations, parenting and teaching are both as arduous as they are gratifying and as serious as they are lighthearted. Instead of choosing one over the other, however, we should embrace all of these seemingly contradictory aspects of caring for kids. Only then can we rise to the occasion as we joyfully and generously provide children with the four fundamentals they all require.
Leadership Combined with Love, Laughter, and Learning
Parameters, procedures, and predictability are vital elements in supplying children with what they need most, both at home and at school. Yet these facets of adult leadership obviously are not all that it takes to ensure that every child realizes their full potential.
Parents and teachers must also include equal parts love, laughter, and learning in their engagements with children. Moreover, this whole-child approach gives kids the best shot at achieving their best, realizing their dreams, and reaping the rewards of a capable, contributing, contented life.
Therefore, it is high time that the crucial component of developing a child’s self-control regains its proper, proportional place amongst also cultivating a kid’s self-confidence, self-expression, and self-efficacy. Both in the classroom and the family room, children’s social, emotional, soulful, and academic development must be thoroughly addressed. Shouldn’t we finally accept that all four aspects of childhood growth are equally indispensable and inextricably intertwined?
Of course, with complaints from parents and teachers ranging from out of control kids to children who seem to have no motivation whatsoever, the subject of strong adult role models is in clear need of some additional advocacy and explanation. All is not lost, but we can no longer persist in raising and educating children who ultimately feel lost because they lack the crucial examples, assistance, admonishments, and adjustments they naturally expect from the most important adults in their lives.
The Truth about Discipline
One of the most disconcerting and detrimental parts of parenting and teaching today revolves around the practice of adults coddling children instead of properly leading them. Along with this unduly indulgent, lenient, laissez faire approach to kids has come the increasing stigmatization and squelching of nearly all negative consequences used to discipline children, even when certain kids chronically choose to be disrespectful, defiant, disruptive, or destructive.
If you already have an issue with the word “discipline,” know that it means so much more than punishment. Real discipline entails training, coaching, corrections, and practice, all with the direct intention of cultivating kids who increasingly exercise self-discipline, self-regulation, and self-reliance.
The current trend of babying children and backing off of appropriate adult authority actually inhibits a child’s growth. Such indulgence neither prepares kids for the real world nor protects them from what they will eventually have to face all alone. Since we all want kids to be strong, the adults in their lives must model this strength and adhere to a more reasonable, balanced approach to children, one fourth of which definitely includes discipline.
Honoring and Asserting Adult Authority
If we truly want children to be reliable and resilient, as well as perseverant and prepared, adults must support them in becoming so by increasingly giving kids responsibility, by allowing them to earn our trust, and by holding them accountable for their decisions. The resulting maturity and autonomy we want all kids to develop is never accomplished by adults walking on eggshells around children or by treating kids as if they were utterly fragile—especially when we say we want them to be strong.
The occasional uncomfortable consequence or stern scolding—yes, even appropriate punishments—do not, as some mistakenly purport, irreparably undermine a kid’s self-image or doom them to a life behind bars. On the contrary, reasonable and warranted repercussions for one’s choices send a child (and equally as important, alert everyone other kid within earshot) the memorable message they have crossed a critical line they best dutifully tow from this point forward.
There may not be much debate as to the importance of cultivating a child’s confidence, creativity, and capabilities. However, none of those key qualities will amount to much without also fostering in that same child the basic respect and reliability that cause all that self-assurance, self-expression, and self-efficacy to be welcomed and trusted by others.
Therefore, adult balance is crucial, and that balance can be found through providing all children with an equal combination of leadership, love, laughter, and learning.
How do you include leadership in the ways you interact with your children or students? How does that adult leadership actually enhance the flow of love, laughter, and learning in your home or classroom? Please share your insights, opinions, and experiences in the comments section below.
Click to read Part Two of this article.
For more on this whole-child approach, read the new book by Robert Ward, A Teacher’s Inside Advice to Parents: How Children Thrive with Leadership, Love, Laughter, and Learning.
This book is available directly through the publisher at a 20% discount using the promotion code RLEGEN17 at checkout on the Rowman & Littlefield Publishers website.