Dr. Val Farmer
Search:  
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Parenting Lays The Foundation For Education

November 9, 2009

What do teachers see happening in their classrooms? Children are becoming harder and harder to teach. Some come to school ready and eager to learn but enough come with attitudes and behavioral problems to affect the school environment negatively. Here are some observations veteran teachers make about the changing conditions of the students they are teaching.

1. Short attention spans. Children have a harder time sitting still and staying on task. It seems like an inordinate number are diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder and are on medication. Is it really that way or is it that some are coming from chaotic environments where they watch a lot of fast–paced TV, have interruptions, distractions and no requirements for sustained effort at tasks at home? Is there something about our video culture that lends itself to shortened attention spans for children?

2. Lack of cooperation and respect for adults. It used to be that first graders used to be afraid of adults. No longer. There is backtalk, disobedience and resistance. They are not innocent or intimidated. One wonders how they are treated at home or what they are witnessing to bring a disrespectful attitude to school. Too much happens in the home, either from siblings or parent, without regard for the needs or desires of the child.

3. More aggression with peers. The story here is that insecurity, anger and "might makes right" manifest themselves at school. These children are easily frustrated and upset when things don’t go their way. They haven’t learned to control their emotions or delay gratification. Their need to feel important and crowd their way into the limelight offends their peers and soon they become isolated and rejected leading to even more aggression. Coercion in the home or getting away with tantrums and coercive behavior make aggression at school more likely.

4. Lack of moral values of right and wrong. It seems to the teachers that not enough time has been taken to explain certain principles of behavior to children and they lack of foundation for knowing how to behave. Teachers have to spend time educating children about basic morality. School is only a part of the total environment for children and what happens at home overrides what little can be done by busy teachers.

5. Not knowing the fundamentals of reading. Many of the children haven’t been read to. So many of the children don’t know the nursery rhymes that were universally known a generation back. There are few books in the home. Parents aren’t reading themselves. Many younger parents may have struggled themselves in school and may not be that proficient at reading.

6. Low value placed on education. Parents may care for their children but may not put a high priority on education as a key to success in society. If children are coming from low income families, the cycle of poverty is passed on to the next generation. Parents don’t become involved with the school or take responsibility for being a partner in their child’s education.

Whether one is poor, middle income or well off, upward mobility in our society depends, more than

anything, on obtaining a college education. Enjoyment of learning and the ability to sustain effort toward worthwhile goals is modeled and encouraged in the home.

A home atmosphere where there is little structure, inconsistent discipline, low expectations and minimal interest in school success leaves children unprepared to work and sustain concentration.

7. Too tired and exhausted to learn. Children do not have regular bedtimes. They stay up late watching TV. They fall asleep in class. In some cases, in crowded homes, they may be kept awake by older teens or parents watching TV late into the night.

8. Dysfunctional behavior in the home. Too often the child becomes labeled but the problem lies in factors at home. Young single parents can be overwhelmed by life and are focused on taking care of themselves. They struggle with the responsibility, dedication and sacrifice necessary to take care of children. Their problems are compounded by their own poor choices.

Children are routinely exposed to intense parental conflict, divorce, moves, conflict over visitation, cohabitation, mother’s boyfriend moving out, tempers, drinking, domestic violence, abuse and other symptoms of the breakdown in family life. They come to school traumatized and preoccupied with worries and insecurities about family life.

Not the whole story. Of course there are heartwarming examples of success stories that run counter to these trends:

- Children of immigrant parents who are pushed to become educated.

- Resilient children who have mentoring support from a caring adult in their life, take to school and excel despite tough conditions at home.

- Parents who value education, teach values, parent well and offer strict monitoring of their children’s behavior despite the anti-education environment they find themselves living in.

- Teachers, church leaders, youth leaders, caring relatives, and coaches who make a critical difference in the lives of children. Participation in extracurricular activities makes a crucial difference in the lives of children in expanding their vision of what is possible in life and developing their life skills.

Does it seem like I’ve overstated the case? I don’t think so. The formula for advancing mobility and sustaining the American Dream is education, work, marriage, and responsible child-rearing. There is no shortcut.