Friday, July 29, 2011

You, Not Them

"Chief, you can't spend all day glued to that computer." (How many times have I checked Facebook/email/ Twitter/homeschool groups today?)

"OK, time to do some math. Yes, I know, you hate it. Too bad. You don't want to fall behind, do you? Math is very important." (How many times do I skip off to read the next thrilling installment of John Saxon/Singapore/Math-U-See?)

"Mommy, I don't want to eat an apple. I want a cookie!" (Like the one I just sat on the couch with?)

"Chief, you need to go clean your room, it's a sty." (As I guiltily close the door of my own room before a guest beholds the tornado wreckage within [sans tornado])

You get the point.

Then again, how many of us heard, while we were growing up, "Because I said so!" or "I'm the parent and you are the child. When you are grown up and have a house of your own...."

Yeah. How did that work out? Did you smile and nod, and say, "OK Mommy, I'll clean my room as neat as a pin!" Or did you grumble and stomp off, feeling some measure of resentment?

How can you expect your child to work hard at something, or to follow certain rules, when he does not see you do it? Or worse yet, when he sees that you don't feel the need to? When a parent tells a child that he must have a clean room, that he must do math, that he must not smoke, because it's the right thing to do, and then you do the opposite, how do you think that child feels? What do you think that does to his moral compass, his sense of right and wrong?

How messed up is that?

And how about this example: Dad comes home from work, grumbling again about his day. Don't think kids can't pick up on this attitude. Junior hasn't done his math yet. "Well, Dad, you don't have to do math." "Son, I didn't do math because I was at work all day. That's my job. School is your job." OK, Junior thinks to himself, So it's OK for me to hate school because it's my job and most folks hate their jobs...

It is far easier to wear the iron glove of tyranny and rule over your household than it is to inspire your children to do good things by doing those good things yourself. It's easier to yell and intimidate them into submission than it is to inspire them to want to do what is right.

Pay the price. Pay the price for your child's future. Set the good example. Practice what you preach. Learn alongside your children, be excited about life with them. Do the right thing and study hard, live the morals you are trying to instill in your children. Do it consistently when they are young, and when they are older and have more negative influences in their lives, they will have a solid sense of how good, real people live, instead of some ideal they have never seen practiced. They will be equipped to make better decisions, they will not fear hard work, and they will not feel the acute burden of sacrifice when it comes to doing the right thing. And when the time comes for them to raise children of their own, how much easier will it be for them when they have all these things, this strong core, in place already?

The DeMilles, in their book A Thomas Jefferson Education, call this principle "You, Not Them." It is one of their Seven Keys to Great Teaching. Lead the child through your own example, and they will follow. A child's parents are their number one influence in their younger years (Recently I heard a study quoted which said that television was the number one influence. But who pays the cable bill?). Don't waste this time. Put in the work. Show your children what scholarship looks like, show them what it is like to love learning, to truly enjoy taking care of your family and your home. Show them how rewarding it is to serve others.

As that old, silly saying goes, "monkey see, monkey do."

PS--By the way, nothing will get you looking for a more engaging and interesting math program than if you have to do that math yourself! If your kid hates math, don't harp on them. You go out and study math, and let them see you studying math. This has the added benefit of showing you perhaps why your kid hates math so much, and you can take steps to remedy it.

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