Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Tough Teachers Get Results"? - So Do Tough Parents

A recent Review section of the Saturday/Sunday (9/28-29/13) Wall Street Journal contained a fascinating article by Joanne Lipman entitled "Tough Teachers Get Results" (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304213904579095303368899132.html?mod=trending_now_1).  In it, she points out that recent findings indicate that old-fashioned education, the kind that employs conscientious discipline and rigid demands, works; in fact, the absence of it may explain why we trail many other nations academically.  She further explains that studies that have also shown "the benefits of moderate childhood stress, how praise kills kids' self-esteem, and why grit is a better predictor of success than SAT scores."

No shit.  We've all seen the backlash of caused by namby-pamby parents who enable their children to be soft.  These adults place so much emphasis on being politically correct and are so coddling of children's' self-esteem that the kids can't take ANY criticism,.  The littlest indication that they're not perfect sends them crying to Mommy and Daddy.  This type of parenting has contributed to the juveniles' sense of entitlement (to money, technology, awards, good grades, etc.) merely because of their presence on this sweet earth.  It's also resulted in chidren's lack of manners (not saying "please" and "thank-you") and their reactions of disbelief and anger when someone actually tells them they cannot have something they want.  These are parents who cannot utter the word "no" to their children and raise hell when someone at school tells their little darling "no" as well.

I think that educators, largely to protect their jobs, have been forced to bow to these overindulgent parents to the detriment of our education system and our society.  The future is in the hands of a society of brats who don't have the foundations of a work ethic and think that success is just going to be handed to them.

And it's not just the overindulgent parents who are affected.  My son, who hears the word "no" all the time, asked recently for a raise in his allowance.  "My friends get money without doing any chores.  Their parents get them electronics for no reason and buy them stuff.  You make me do chores all the time and I even have to pay my way when I go out with my friends," he complained.  What followed was a rousing discussion of why chores are not optional (because the Cleaning Fairy doesn't live here and I am not doing all of it) and why he has to pay for his own stuff (because it's HIS stuff that HE wants).  After the yelling died down, I think he understood, for the umpteenth time, that  he has to work for the stuff he wants.  Similarly, he knows that if his grades go down, all of his electronics get confiscated. Having electronics is not a God-given right. Period.

Lipman lists her manifesto for the youth of today which consists of eight principles.  Read the article for all of them, but the ones that resonated with me are:

A Little Pain Is Good For You - It challenges you emotionally to do better.

Failure Is An Option - Far from traumatizing kids, failure can serve as a springboard to improvement.  I think kids who aren't afraid to fail are more likely to take chances and learn from their mistakes.

Strict Is Better Than Nice - Just as Mom and Dad need to embrace their roles as parents, rather than friends, teachers need to do the same.  Being strict, without bullying (which some teacher, truthfully, do), strengthens kids' self-esteem.  It affirms that "you CAN do better.  I know you can."

Grit Triumphs Talent - Lipman says that "passion and perseverance for long-term goals is the best predictor of success."  Anyone can cruise through life; it takes more to really succeed.

Praise Makes You Weak - I would say that too much or praising someone inappropriatly is what contributes to a kid being a marshmallow.  If kids believe that everything they do is perfect, why should they try harder?  My kids are inherently wonderful and I love them unconditionally.  Sometimes, however, I disagree with their choices (they are kids, after all) and I we either discuss what could have been done better or I let them deal with the repercussions as a Life Lesson.

Stress Makes You Strong - Lipman echoes a study that found that "a moderate amount of stress in childhood promotes resilience."  What kind of "moderate stress?"  The kind that comes from a good, non-coddling teacher.  It's in the desire to get rid of the stress that lessons can sink in.  I think a child who is dealing with minor issues that produce stress and seeing that they CAN overcome them promotes confidence in their ability to handle the bigger stuff.  If I'm writing my children's assignments, they are learning nothing.  Sometimes a parent can hurt a kid by doing things for them.

Discipline is a good thing and Lipman makes a great case for some aspects of traditional parenting and teaching.  Just as parents need to step up and say "no" to kids, teachers need to get tougher and go back to some long-forgotten aspects of teaching.  It will benefit us all.


Tip:  As I stated above, my children are absolutely wonderful but sometimes I need to remind them of some of the rules of the house.  We have chalkboards on the cupboards in the kitchen (you can buy chalkboard paper at Amazon) which tells them what responsibilities they have for that day.  Examples include:  "empty the dishwasher," "bring up the laundry," and "feed the cat."  The chalkboard serves as a visual cue to that this stuff needs to be done and if it's not, there are no excuses.

Thank you for reading!  See you soon!

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